The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) demands an explanation from the Afghanistan Government for the arrest of two television journalists this week.
According to the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA), an IFJ affiliate, the chief editor of private TV channel Emroze, Fahim Kohdamani, was arrested on March 23 following allegations that the content of an Emroze broadcast expressed anti-Islamic sentiments offensive to some Shiite clerics.
Najibullah Kabuli, a member of the Parliament’s lower house and owner of Emroze, told the AIJA that Kohdamani was arrested on the orders of Attorney-General Mohammad Eshaq Aloko.
Kabuli said the arrest may have been motivated by the extreme pressure exerted by powerful clerics on Afghanistan’s President, Hamid Karzai, and government leaders to prevent media reporting on relations between Iran and Afghanistan.
Karzai and Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar had also told him not to publish this type of material, Kabuli told the AIJA.
Kohdamani continues to be held by police.
Ariana TV reporter Ajmal Alamzai was also arrested on March 23 by security officials while on the way to Bakhater University in Kabul, where he is also a student.
Ariana TV director Ehsanullah Arianzai told the AIJA that Alamzai was picked up by officials. No explanation was offered to him or his brother, who was accompanying him.
Alamzai was released late in the evening after interrogation by the National Directorate of Security.
Alamzai presents news bulletins for Ariana TV and a talk show program where he interviews politicians and experts about various social and political matters in Afghanistan.
The arrest of the two journalists comes one week after the murder of two journalists. Jawed Ahmad was killed by unidentified gunmen in Kandahar and Munir Ahmad Amil was shot dead by a police officer in Kabul.
The AIJA and the IFJ are extremely concerned for the security and well-being of media personnel in Afghanistan and call on the Government to release Kohdamani immediately.
“As Afghanistan prepares for upcoming elections, the Government must encourage all people including members of its ministries and religious leaders to direct any complaints about the media to the Media Violations Commission of the Ministry of Communication,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“The people of Afghanistan need to know what is happening in their country, particularly in the lead-up to elections. President Karzai and the Afghanistan authorities must ensure that journalists are able and allowed to fulfil their duty to inform the public without fear or threat of arbitrary arrest or violence.”
The IFJ joins the AIJA in urging Afghanistan’s Government to make a public commitment to implement the existing Media Violations Commission as a transparent mechanism for managing public complaints regarding media content.
Both organisations also called on the Government to conduct full and transparent investigations into the murders of Jawed Ahmad Yazemi and Munir Ahmad Amil.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide