Afghanistan: Journalists arrested over allegation of spreading propaganda

Four Afghan journalists, Bismillah Watandoost, Qudrat Soltani, Mujib Obaidi, and Sanaullah Siam were arrested by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) on July 26 following their reporting trip to Spin Boldak, a district captured by the Taliban earlier this month. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Afghanistan affiliates, the Afghanistan Independent Journalists' Association (AIJA) and the Afghanistan's National Journalists Union (ANJU) urge the authorities to release the journalists immediately.

Afghan security personnel stand guard along the road amid fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters in Kandahar on July 9. Credit: AFP

Soltani, Watandoost and Obaidi, reporters of Kandahar-based radio station Millat Zagh Radio, and Siam, a cameraperson affiliated with Xinhua News Agency, were arrested in Kandahar city while after completing a reporting assignment to the town of Spin Boldak. On the border with Pakistan Spin Boldak was seized by the Taliban in early July.

The journalists had visited Spin Boldak to investigate whether the government’s claim that the Taliban was killing civilians in the district. In the course of their reporting, the four journalists interviewed Taliban commanders.

The NDS, Afghanistan’s state intelligence agency, accused the four journalists of being involved in propagandising against Afghanistan’s national interest and of favouring Taliban militants. According to Interior Ministry spokesman, Mirwais Stanikzai, an investigation into the case is ongoing.

Attacks, threats and censorship of journalists by the Afghan government and the Taliban has increased sharply amid a dramatic rise of violence in Afghanistan after the USA  withdrew their troops from Afghanistan. Broadcasts from Radio Najarab, a radio station in Najrab district of Kapisa Province, ceased on July 20 after media workers fled to save their lives amid fighting between government security forces and Taliban militants. 

The AIJA said: “The AIJA considers the detention of these journalists by the security agencies being against the law of mass media and calls on the security agencies to release the journalists as soon as possible and to pursue this issue through the Media Complaints and Violations Commission.”

The ANJU said: “We are concerned about the journalists being arrested last week by (the) government for their news-reporting.”

The IFJ said: “The arrest of journalists for merely attempting to investigate the government’s claim is a breach of the spirit of free and independent media. We urges the authorities to release all four media workers immediately.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

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