Afghanistan’s two presidential candidates said Friday they would reverse the expulsion of New York Times correspondent Matthew Rosenberg, who was kicked out of the country after officials were angered over a story he published reporting that leaders were mulling imposing an interim government. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have been locked in a battle over who won the country's recent election and their position on Rosenberg’s expulsion marks a rare agreement between the two presidential contenders.
“We believe this act is completely against all applicable constitutional law of Afghanistan and the standards of freedom of speech,” Abdullah spokesman Fazal Rahman Oria told the Times.
A spokesman for Ghani said he “personally condemned the expulsion as against Afghan law, against electoral law and a violation of freedom of speech.”
Rosenberg, 40, was called into a meeting with Afghan officials earlier this week over his reporting. He wrote a Times story saying leaders were discussing the possibility of an interim government, or a “soft coup,” amid Abdullah’s and Ghani’s argument over who won Afghanistan’s presidential election. The Times correspondent was originally issued a travel ban before he was given 24 hours by the Afghan attorney general’s office to leave the country; he was expelled on Thursday. The decision was believed to be handed down by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Meanwhile, Abdullah and Ghani are trying to reach an agreement on forming a coalition government to stop the impasse. The new government can be formed as early as next week if the two sides come to a deal.