Afghan officials express fear on FB, get fired

KABUL (TIP): As the fate of Helmand Province hung in the balance last month during a withering Taliban offensive, the province’s deputy governor, Mohammad Jan Rasoolyar, found his urgent pleas for help from the central government going unheeded. So he did what millions of other people do every day: He ranted on Facebook. Rasoolyar posted an open letter to President Ashraf Ghani’s government on the site, in which he deplored the precarious state of the military and police forces in Sangin district. Without immediate aid, he said, Sangin, as well as the provincial capital and perhaps the entire province, would probably fall.

In one sense, Rasoolyar’s plea worked: His Facebook post drew wide attention from the news media, adding pressure on the government to speed up reinforcements to Helmand. In another sense, successful social media activism can look a lot like insubordination: The government fired Rasoolyar for his trouble.

Abdul Malik Sediqqi, an official with the directorate which oversees the administration of the country’s 34 provinces, announced this month that the Afghan National Security Council considered the Facebook postings of Rasoolyar and another official, the deputy governor of Ghazni province, Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, to be “irresponsible” and “intolerable”.

In an order Sediqqi cited the security council as saying that “using social media for expressing disapproval of any government decisions or policies can in no way be tolerated,” and that violations would result in “serious action”. Ahmadi was fired after he went online with his concerns about a reported influx of al-Qaida terrorists to his province. (NYT news Service)

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