IFJ Concerned About Blasphemy Trial Against Afghan Editor

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries, is concerned that an Afghan magazine editor is facing an unfair trial after being arrested for blasphemy.

On October 11, Ali Muhaqiq Nasab, chief editor of Hoqoq-e-Zan (Women’s Rights) magazine, faced the first day of his public trial, during which the prosecution called for severe punishment to be ordered as a lesson for Nasab and others.

The prosecuting attorney argued that an article written by Nasab, questioning harsh penalties for adultery and theft, was a work of atheism that intended to confuse the public.

“The IFJ is worried that Nasab is being treated unfairly and unlawfully and that his case will be used as an example to further intimidate other journalists in the region,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

“It is concerning that Nasab could receive a harsh penalty after questionable arrest and a trial that appears to be favouring the prosecution,” said IFJ President. “This trial raises the spectre of Afghan journalists increasing self-censorship as authorities actively intimidate and harass journalists for reporting on religious issues,” said Warren.

Nasab represented himself at the trial, telling the court he is an expert in religious affairs and asking the court to treat him with justice and logic by ignoring the conspiracy against him.

However, according to IFJ sources, many of Nasab’s responses were ignored or cut short in a cross-fire of questions from the prosecution and more than 15 judges of the court during proceedings.

The Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) and Committee to Protect Afghan Journalists (CPAJ) are observing the trial and have expressed concern that if the hearing continues as it is, Nasab will not receive a fair trial.

Pressure from religious leaders influenced the arrest and charging of Nasab. Authorities bypassed Afghan legislation stating that journalists cannot be arrested until a government-appointed media commission has considered their case.

Blasphemy laws remain the greatest threat to journalists in Afghanistan. Two journalists were sentenced to death under this law in 2004 and subsequently fled the country. The IFJ continues its call for Afghan authorities to follow the mandate of Afghan legislation providing for press freedom, and to drop charges against Nasab immediately.

For more information on Nasab’s arrest, visit http://www.ifj-asia.org/page/afghanistan051007.html

For further information contact Christopher Warren on +61 411 757 668
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries