Fears for two Pakistani journalists detained by the Taliban in Afghanistan

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned for the safety of two Pakistani journalists, Saleem Shahzad and Qamar Yousafzai, who were arrested and put on trial by the Taliban after arriving in the Helmand province of Afghanistan on November 19.

Shahzad, correspondent for The Star and Pakistan bureau chief of the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online, and Yousafzai, a journalist for local Quetta newspapers, were reportedly arrested when they reached Helmand to cover the insurgency and Taliban activities in the area.

"The government of Afghanistan must intervene to ensure Shahzad and Yousafzai, who were only doing their jobs, are released unharmed as soon as possible," IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

According to local reports, little information is known about the charges against the pair or when they will be released.

"Given the track record of journalist safety in Afghanistan, the IFJ is very concerned that the lives of these two journalists may be in danger," Warren said.

The Afghan Independent Journalists' Association and the Committee to Protect Afghan Journalists also voiced their alarm at the arrest of the journalists, and called for their immediate return.

Afghanistan remains a dangerous and fragile country for journalists to work, and targeted attacks against journalists have been on the rise in the last two years since democracy was achieved.

"True democracy cannot exist without press freedom, and the Afghan government must step up to the challenge and put an end to senseless attacks on journalists so they can work safely and independently," the IFJ president said.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries