Call to Australian Government to Seek Release of Afghan Journalist

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), have called on Australia’s Government to make a high-level representation to Afghanistan’s Government and President Harmid Karzai to repeal the death sentence imposed on journalist Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh.

As part of a global campaign by the IFJ, press freedom organisations and the trade union movement in support of Kambakhsh, a delegation of the ACTU and the Alliance asked Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, to seek President Karzai’s prompt intervention in the case.

The primary court of Balkh province sentenced Kambakhsh to death on January 22 after a closed-door trial at which Kambakhsh was denied legal representation.

Kambakhsh, a journalism student and reporter for the daily newspaper Jahan-e Naw, was arrested on October 27, 2007, and charged with blasphemy for downloading material from the internet on women’s rights, and allegedly distributing the materials.

The Alliance and the ACTU said the court’s decision and harsh sentence show an alarming disregard for the right to freedom of expression and a fair trial despite Afghanistan’s constitutional commitment to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

IFJ affiliates around the world are asking their home governments to take similar action in calling on Afghanistan’s leaders to show a commitment to a free and open Afghanistan by intervening to overturn the sentence and withdraw the charges against Kambakhsh, and to take steps to institute reform of the legal system to ensure such judgments cannot be applied in the future.

“Afghanistan’s President and Government must act decisively to repeal the sentence against Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh and reassure the people of Afghanistan that the country’s leaders are genuinely committed to respect, uphold and protect the rights of all citizens to free expression, a fee media and a fair trial,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries