IFJ Concern Over Government Crackdown on Weekly in Kabul

The International Federation of Journalists has sent letters of protest to the President of Afghanistan, Mr. Hamid Karzai, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Abdullah Abdullah , the Afghan Ambassador to Australia Mr. H. Mahmoud Saikal and Martin Hadlow, Head of UNESCO Mission, Kabul voicing its concern over the arrest of Sayeed Mirhassan Mahdawi, chief editor of the Aftaab and the banning of the publication, and the subsequent removal of all copies from Kabul newsstands.



20 June 2003


Mr. Hamid Karzai

President


CC. Dr Abdullah Abdullah

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Email: contact@afghanistan-mfa.net


CC. H.E Mahmoud Saikal

Ambassador

Embassy of Afghanistan in Canberra

Email: admin@afghanembassy.net <mailto:admin@afghanembassy.net>

Fax: (+61-2) 6282 7322


CC. Martin Hadlow

Head of Kabul Mission, Kabul

UNESCO


Dear Mr. Hamid Karzai,


The International Federation of Journalists, the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, is deeply concerned over the arrest of Sayeed Mirhassan Mahdawi, chief editor of the Aftaab and the banning of the publication, and the subsequent removal of all copies from Kabul newsstands.


According to our information, National Security officers closed Aftab a socio-political weekly on Tuesday 17th June and arrested both the editor Sayeed Mirhassan Mahdawi and head of writers mission Mr. Ali Payam. It is reported that prior to arrest Mahdawi received death threats by telephone after publishing an article calling for a secular government in Afghanistan.


Abdul Hamid Mubariz, deputy information and culture minister, told Reuters "The several articles in Aftaab's latest edition were sacrilegious." Mr. Mubariz has stated that the Information and Culture Ministry has summoned Mehdavi and that the attorney's office was expected to interrogate him.

The IFJ calls upon the Government of Afghanistan to release the two journalists arrested and allow the newspaper to reopen and be sold.


Finally, the IFJ calls on the Government of Afghanistan to remember the vital importance of a free press in a democracy; to do all that is necessary to ensure that press freedom is not corrupted; and to ensure the safety and of all journalists working in Afghanistan generally, and at this crucial time, during the building of democracy.



Yours sincerely,



Christopher Warren

IFJ President


Recommended action:


Send appeals:


* Condemning the arrest of Sayeed Mirhassan Mahdawi and the banning of the Aftaab.

* Calling on the Government of Afghanistan to release Sayeed Mirhassan Mahdawi and to reopen the Aftaab.

* Calling on the Government of Afghanistan to ensure press freedom and safety for all journalists and media workers in Afghanistan.


Appeals:


Mr. Hamid Karzai

Prime Minister


CC. Dr Abdullah Abdullah

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Email: contact@afghanistan-mfa.net


CC. H.E Mahmoud Saikal

Ambassador

Embassy of Afghanistan in Canberra

Email: admin@afghanembassy.net <mailto:admin@afghanembassy.net>

Fax: (+61-2) 6282 7322


CC. Martin Hadlow

Head of Kabul Mission, Kabul

UNESCO