Expelled New York Times reporter tells Club Newsmaker he's 'eager' to return to Afghanistan
August 27, 2014 | By Heather Forsgren Weaver | HeatherForsgrenWeaver@gmail.com
Matthew Rosenberg, the New York Times reporter expelled from Afghanistan Aug. 20 wants to return, he told a National Press Club Newsmaker press conference Aug. 27.
"I am eager to go back there," Rosenberg said. "I want to go back there and keep reporting. It is a fascinating place."
Rosenberg's ouster came one day after he had been questioned by officials in the Afghanistan attorney general's office about an Aug. 19 story he had written in the Times about a potential coup in Kabul. Rosenberg called it a "Plan B" option if the current turmoil over the recent presidential elections is not resolved.
Rosenberg's expulsion was against the law and the papers that were presented ordering him to leave the country, were written in Pashto, an Afghani language, with grammatical errors. "They couldn't even spell my name right," he said.
The action by Afghanistan's attorney general, at the behest of Afghan President Harmid Karzai, was "exceptional," Rosenberg said, noting that the government has typically been very good at maintaining press freedoms.
"For the most part they have been really good about handling the press, but I think this particular story highlighted a real power struggle within the inner circle and it's incredibly difficult to come down on people you have trusted and worked with for years -- some of the closest people to you in the country," Rosenberg said. "I provided a convenient external party to direct all that anger, so they threw me out."
Both of the candidates for president, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, issued statements Aug. 22 decrying the expulsion of Rosenberg as a violation of the principles of freedom of the press and saying that, upon taking power, they would rescind the expulsion order.
"We are hoping that the candidates were being straightforward. We believe they were when they said they would let me back in," Rosenberg said. "I would certainly go back there and see what happens."
Unlike other countries where being labeled a spy would make it impossible to gain the trust of sources and be able to report, Afghanistan is not like that, Rosenberg said. "I can probably work there again," he added.
Rosenberg would especially like to return because "it is a bit of bummer to get thrown out of a country for a story that ran on A-7."
Ironically, even though Rosenberg has covered Afghanistan since 2008, he has never met Karzai and was scheduled to have a sit-down interview with him a few days after his expulsion -- an interview that was canceled. When NPC President Myron Belkind presented Rosenberg with the traditional Press Club mug, telling him that Karzai had received a mug in after Karzai's 2003 appearance at the Club, Rosenberg joked that he really wished he could verify that Karzai used his mug. But, alas, Rosenberg said, he had never been in Karzai's office.