By Kristina Wong - 08/21/14 11:06 AM EDT
The Afghan government issued expelled New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg on Thursday for refusing to identify his sources for a story.
A government order identified Rosenberg as a spy with "secret relations," according to Rosenberg, 40, who live-tweeted the details of his expulsion Thursday morning.
To Serve & Protect: Kabul's chief prosecutor, police general & four regular police escorted me thru immigration. All oddly chummy about it.— Matthew Rosenberg (@mrosenbergNYT) August 21, 2014
Leaving #Afghanistan soon. Want to thank the many Afghans who have been kind & generous to me during my 6+ years here. Too many to name.— Matthew Rosenberg (@mrosenbergNYT) August 21, 2014
The Afghan government took the move after Rosenberg reported on Aug. 18 that a group of powerful Afghan government ministers and officials with "strong ties" to Afghan security forces were possibly planning a coup if the presidential election was not resolved soon.
The spokesman for Afghan president Hamid Karzai defended the government's decision, and said it "is just to stop the evil in the [Times'] reporting."
"Afghanistan has enjoyed a free and lively press for over a decade now. ... We have always welcomed international media to operate freely in the country and we will continue to do so," said Aimal Faizi in a written statement to The Hill.
"But in regards to the [Times], it is not the first time that the paper has involved itself in Afghanistan's internal political affairs for its own political purposes and agenda. Constantly referring to unnamed sources has put into question the credibility of the [Times]," Faizi said.
"Such biased reporting, not properly sourced, can be considered nothing but a fabrication aimed at seeking a specific motive," he said, saying the paper's coverage of the election amounts to threats against national security and the stability of the country," he said.
The State Department on Thursday called the expulsion a "regrettable step backward for the freedom of the press in this country," according to NPR.
"There is no mistaking the signal this sends to all journalists working in Afghanistan, whether they are Afghan, American, or any other nationality," said U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham.
"I expressed today to President Karzai our strong concern about this unwarranted action. I asked him to affirm his government's recognition of the importance of protecting the freedom of the press, as an important part of the legacy of his presidency," he said.
The country is in the midst of a heated presidential ballot audit, after presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah accused his challenger Abdul Ghani of ballot fraud.
A new Afghan president was scheduled to be inaugurated in late August, but it is unclear whether that will happen on time.
The U.S. is waiting for a new president in order for him to sign a bilateral security agreement to allow U.S. troops to stay in the country with immunity past 2014, when their combat mission ends.
If there is no agreement signed by September, the U.S. military might have to begin pulling out all U.S. troops from the country.