The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today said the Afghan government must secure the release of Ajmal Naqshbandi, who was working as a translator when he and the Italian journalist he was working for were captured by the Taliban.
“Kidnapping media workers is becoming and alarmingly common tactic among extremist groups in various parts of the world and it threatens to jeopardise not only these workers’ safety but their ability to report on conflict zones at all,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “We are backing an international call for Ajmal’s release and calling on the government as well to make sure that he is soon released.
The IFJ is supporting an appeal by Afghan and Italian journalists to the Taliban to release Naqshbandi, who has been held captive since 5 March. The Italian journalist he was working for, Daniele Mastrogiacomo, a correspondent for La Repubblica, was released on 19 March after the Afghan government released some Taliban prisoners in exchange for Mastrogiacomo.
Mastrogiacomo was kidnapped along with his interpreter Naqshbandi and driver Sayed Agha, who was beheaded by the captors.
IFJ affiliate Federazione Nazionale della Stampa Italiana (FNSI), recently made a direct appeal to the Taliban Commander Mullah Dadullah, who is holding Naqshbandi, for the translator’s immediate release.
“Whilst we are very happy for the release of the Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo, we deeply regret that the Afghan professional helping him as interpreter is still being kept as a prisoner of war,” FNSI said in its joint declaration made with journalists in Afghanistan.
The declaration also says "that all sides involved in the armed conflict must protect and respect journalists' freedom and facilitate their activities where possible, while at the same time ensure the immediate release of those in captivity."
The IFJ is worried about what seems to be a recent surge in kidnappings of journalists by extremist groups. Mastrogiacomo was the second Italian journalist kidnapped in Afghanistan in six months. Photographer Gabriele Torsello was kidnapped in October and released almost a month later.
Journalists have also been a target in Gaza. BBC correspondent Alan Johnston has been held by unknown captors since March 12, with no demands made for his release. At least four other journalists have been kidnapped in the region in recent months; all were eventually let go unharmed.
For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide