US ‘deeply disturbed’ after Afghans bar reporter from leaving country

The United States is "deeply disturbed" that Afghanistan's attorney general has blocked a New York Times reporter from leaving the country, the State Department said Tuesday.

Times journalist Matthew Rosenberg said Tuesday that he was questioned after writing a story alleging that unnamed Afghan officials were plotting to seize power if the country's electoral crisis continued. 

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Rosenberg declined to reveal his sources for the story, the Times reported, and was instructed to return to the attorney general's office with his lawyer on Wednesday.

According to the paper, it was the fourth time the Afghan government has threatened legal action against the Times for its reporting.

"We are deeply disturbed by the actions of the Afghan attorney general and by this travel ban that has allegedly been put into place," said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, "and urge the Afghan government to respect fundamental freedoms of expression and expression of the press, and we’ll continue to monitor it."

Pressed if that call rang hollow because reporters in Ferguson, Mo., have been detained by local law enforcement officials while trying to cover protests there, Harf argued the situation was not similar.

"I think when you hear the president of the United States stand up and say, we need to get the facts about what happened here, journalists should be able to do their jobs — we’ve all been very clear about that, whether it’s in Missouri or in Afghanistan," Harf said.

"I think you’ve heard from the federal government here how important we believe it is for journalists to do their jobs."

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