Afghan President Promises To Investigate Journalist's Death Sentence

 The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes discussions between the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, and representatives of IFJ associates the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA) and the Committee to Protect Afghan Journalists (CPAJ) on February 6, 2008, about the death sentence imposed on journalism student Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh.

AIJA President Rahimullah Samander said the meeting with Mr Karzai was a positive step toward reversing the sentence imposed by the primary court of Balkh province against Mr Kambakhsh on 22 January.

Parvez, 23, a journalist for the daily Janan-e-Naw, was detained in the northern city of Mazhar-e-Sharif on October 27, 2007, for reported insolence against Islam. He was accused of distributing articles and books that contained anti-Islamic sentiment, and sentenced to death for blasphemy.

The IFJ is encouraged by President Karzai’s commitment to act on the concerns of the AIJA, the CPAJ and press freedom organisations across the world that have sent letters of protest to his government.

In a letter to President Karzai on January 23, IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said, “We urge you to repeal the court’s decision to execute Mr Kambakhsh. Only by doing this will you assure the people of Afghanistan that you, as their leader, respect, uphold and protect the rights of all citizens regardless of their religious or political beliefs.”

At a regional meeting of IFJ Asia-Pacific in Kuala Lumpur at the weekend, 21 unions and associations representing journalists across the Asia-Pacific region issued a joint statement to the President and Government of Afghanistan demanding immediate action to overturn the sentence and institute prompt reform of the legal system to ensure such judgments cannot be applied in the future.                                                                                                                 

The IFJ affiliates said the right to freedom of expression in Afghanistan must be protected and upheld as stipulated under Article 34 of Afghanistan’s Constitution and reinforced by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said, “The IFJ welcomes Mr Karzai’s promise to the AIJA and the CPAJ to investigate the case and overturning the sentence against Mr Kambakhsh. We call on the President to ensure that his commitment is honoured without delay in the interests of the rights of all Afghan citizens, including Mr Kambakhsh.”

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

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries