IFJ Expresses Fear For Safety of Afghan Journalist

The IFJ has sent a letter of protest to the President of Afghanistan, Mr. Hamid Karzai, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Abdullah Abdullah , the Afghan Ambassador to Australia, Mr. H. Mahmoud Saikal, and Martin Hadlow, Director of Office UNESCO Mission, Kabul, voicing its concern over the safety of Sayeed Mirhassan Mahdawi, chief editor of the Aftaab and Ali Payam, deputy editor, and the closure of the publication.


The IFJ has also written to UN agencies in Afghanistan seeking the same protection for journalist Mahdawi as that being offered to journalist Payam, an Iranian national.


The IFJ have protested to the in the following letter the President of Afghanistan Mr Hamid Karzai:


18 July 2003



H.E. Hamid Karzai

President

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan



Your Excellency,


The International Federation of Journalists, the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, is deeply concerned over the safety of Sayeed Mirhassan Mahdawi, chief editor of Aftaab, and Ali Payam, deputy editor, and the closure of the publication.


According to our information, National Security officers closed Aftaab, a socio-political weekly, on Tuesday 17 June and arrested both Mahdawi and Payam. It is reported that prior to arrest Mahdawi received death threats by telephone after publishing an article calling for a secular government in Afghanistan. The pair were released from detention on 25 June and are now seeking protection from international agencies, amid fears for their safety.


The IFJ calls upon the Government of Afghanistan to implement a full investigation into the arrests and the closure of the publication.


The IFJ strongly suggests that the Ministry of Information and Culture is the most appropriate body to conduct this investigation, not the High Court or the Ulama council (cleric council). This is because it is your Government that has promised to uphold essential human rights in Afghanistan, not least Freedom of Expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


In that same vein, the IFJ calls on the Government of Afghanistan to remember the vital importance of a free press in building democracy and to ensure the safety of all journalists in Afghanistan.


Yours sincerely,



Christopher Warren

IFJ President


cc. Dr Abdullah Abdullah

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Email: contact@afghanistan-mfa.net


cc. H.E Mahmoud Saikal

Ambassador

Embassy of Afghanistan in Canberra

Email: admin@afghanembassy.net <mailto:admin@afghanembassy.net>

Fax: (+61-2) 6282 7322


cc. Martin Hadlow

Head of Kabul Mission, Kabul

UNESCO


Recommended action:


Send appeals:


* Condemning the arrests of Mahdawi and Payam and the closure of the Aftaab.

* Calling on the Government to order the Ministry of Information and Culture to fully investigate the arrests and the closure of the publication.

* Calling on the Government of Afghanistan to ensure press freedom and safety for all journalists and media workers in Afghanistan.


Appeals:


Mr. Hamid Karzai

President


cc. Dr Abdullah Abdullah

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Email: contact@afghanistan-mfa.net


cc. H.E Mahmoud Saikal

Ambassador

Embassy of Afghanistan in Canberra

Email: admin@afghanembassy.net <mailto:admin@afghanembassy.net>

Fax: (+61-2) 6282 7322


cc. Martin Hadlow

Head of Kabul Mission, Kabul

UNESCO