August 25, 2015 / 12:44 PM / 3 years ago

Afghan satire 'Kabul Taxi' angers spies, scribes summoned

KABUL (Reuters) - The biting political satire of a Facebook page called Kabul Taxi has got under the skin of Afghanistan’s spy agency - enough so that it summoned the two journalists it suspects of being behind it for a two-hour grilling.

Kabul Taxi’s acerbic take on the foibles of the Afghan government, corrupt officials and bureaucrats has made it the talk of the capital in the three months since it was launched, and a leader in a burgeoning scene of online satire sites.

The latest target was Haneef Atmar, the powerful National Security Council adviser to President Ashraf Ghani, who Kabul Taxi mocked over the number of his advisers and their activities.

Atmar, however, did not find this funny.

The National Directorate of Security, the intelligence agency that effectively reports to Atmar, hauled in two reporters it suspected to be behind Kabul Taxi.

The National Security Council (NSC) issued a statement on Monday, saying Kabul Taxi had leaked government secrets by naming some NSC staff, presenting what it deemed a “serious security risk” to their lives.

“The NSC office with respect to freedom of expression and people’s access to information, has asked concerned authorities to act against the offenders of this case to prevent further leaks of secrets in the security sector,” the statement added.

The Afghan journalists union defended Kabul Taxi, saying the staff names were already published on the NSC’s own Facebook page along with their photos.

One Kabul Taxi follower responded with a dark joke about the worsening security situation in Kabul, where a recent truck bomb and other attacks have caused public outrage.

“The National Security Council and intelligence agency ... should not be chasing the Kabul Taxi driver, they should be chasing the truck bombers who massacre people.”

Joking apart, the pressure put on the satirists has raised concerns among activists about press freedoms. The journalist union condemned the interrogations and urged the government to respect freedom of expression.

In June, Human Rights Watch said the government was restricting the information available to reporters, limiting access to conflict zones, and failing to protect them from violence. The rights group did praise the government for scrapping a commission used to pressure unruly reporters.

Editing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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