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City of Brass

City of Brass

‘Twas the night before Ramadan, and all through Kabul… #afghan09

… the voters are stirring, and speaking their will.

The word democracy refers to a process, not an outcome. The outcome in this case is largely known; President Hamid Karzai is projected to win easily, even if his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah does manage to force a runoff. As far as the process goes, Taliban intimidation and alleged fraud and corruption have served to depress projected turnout. There has been a steady stream of violence leading up to the election and continuing on election day, notably a large explosion on the Kabul-Kandahar highway just a couple of hours ago, as well as many other reports of attacks and attempted attacks by Taliban forces. There are reports of technical problems with voting machines, missing or undelvered ballots, and even the indelible ink on voters’ fingers being washed off.

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In light of all these obstacles, the Afghani people are still turning out to vote, and they are making their voices heard. Perhaps Afghanistan is not yet a place where the people’s voices can actually effect change, but it is not a small thing to be heard. Ignoring their voice, too, requires effort and energy; it is a reality that the forces that tear Afghanistan apart must ultimately acknowledge.

I think that the real symbol of democracy is not the election, but the response by the Afghan media to the government order which prohibited coverage of violence on election day. Pajhwok Afghan News released the following statement:

Pajhwok Afghan News Will Continue to Serve the People in Elections

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Pajhwok Afghan News rejects the order of the National Security Council, released by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, which forbids coverage or prediction of violence during tomorrow’s election.

Such orders have no basis in the Afghan Constitution or the principles of democracy.

For five years, Pajhwok’s mission has been to serve the people of Afghanistan by providing factual, free and fair information. We are obligated to our fellow citizens to report the truth, so that they can participate actively in our democracy.

We will continue to do so.

Our policy is to report with care for accuracy, and not to inflame any tensions or fears by sensational reporting. We will follow these professional standards tomorrow and in the future.

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We hope that the election will be safe and transparent for all of Afghanistan. But to conceal information from the people violates our very reason for existing.

Although the official English translation says that Afghan and foreign media “are requested to refrain from broadcasting any incidence of violence” we can see that in the Dari, the words have a different meaning.

The Dari version makes clear that it is seriously forbidden to report and publish photographs on violence, and to predict that there will be attacks.

Pajhwok editors understand that their role is not to predict. However, we feel a professional obligation to inform our audience about specific threats that are documented and credible.

It is up to the people to decide how to act on this information.

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Italics mine. Today, the idea that “the people will decide” will become engrained in the mind of every Afghan, voting or not, that here is something that is their right and their responsibility. The idea that the people can decide, that they should decide, and that they ultimately will decide, is the outcome the voters in Afghanistan are literally risking their lives for.

(follow @pajhwok and @ruthowen, or #afghan09 on twitter for live and real-time afghanistan election coverage.)

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