The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the jailing of Afghan magazine editor Ali Muhaqiq Nasab after an investigation by the Afghan Media Commission found him not guilty.
Nasab, who was arrested on October 1 following complaints that he intentionally published anti-Islamic articles, was sentenced to two years in prison by the primary court in Kabul on October 22.
When arresting Nasab, the chief editor of Hoqoq-e-Zan (Women’s Rights) magazine, authorities bypassed Afghan legislation that states journalists cannot be arrested until the government-appointed Media Commission for Investigating Media-Related Offences has considered their case.
The media commission met on October 18 to discuss Nasab’s case following a series of requests by Afghan media groups and international human rights groups. The media commission concluded that Nasab did not deliberately insult Islam in his articles and was therefore not guilty of blasphemy.
The IFJ, the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries, has called the court’s decision to imprison Nasab illegal and immoral.
“The Media Commission found him not guilty, therefore, according to Afghan law, Nasab should never have been arrested in the first place,” said IFJ president Christopher Warren.
“The court’s decision to go against Afghanistan’s own legislation is a huge step back for both human rights and press freedom in Afghanistan,” said the IFJ president.
“The case is now under appeal and we demand that Afghan authorities follow the mandate of Afghan legislation providing for press freedom, and drop all charges against Nasab immediately,” said Warren.
Blasphemy laws remain the greatest threat to journalists in Afghanistan and the IFJ is concerned that Nasab’s sentencing will lead to increased self-censorship and an avoidance of reporting on important religious issues in the region.
The prosecution called for the death penalty, accusing Nasab of apostasy (the abandonment of faith), leading observers to call the two-year sentence a compromise.
“It is true he is fortunate not to have received the death penalty, but any guilty verdict in this case is immoral and should be not be condoned,” said Warren.
The IFJ calls on the Afghan Government to respect the law of the land and allow press freedom to prosper.
For further information contact Christopher Warren on +61 411 757 668
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries