Dangers for Journalists Rise as Afghan Elections Approach

 

The International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) is concerned that the dangers faced by Afghan journalists may

be escalating rapidly as Afghanistan

prepares for nation-wide elections on August 20.

 

According to the Afghan Independent

Journalists’ Association (AIJA), an

IFJ affiliate, a journalist from the

Al-Jazeera English news channel was kidnapped in Pitch district of Kunar

province on the morning of July 12. Sadullah Sail,

a correspondent with the channel,

went missing as he was travelling through the district and was later confirmed

by a spokesman of the Taliban Islamic militia to be in their custody.

 

He was released after several

hours, following the intervention of

the AIJA and local tribal notables.

 

Bordering the Federally

Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan

and long a centre of militancy,

Kunar has been one of the most dangerous zones for working journalists in Afghanistan.

 

The IFJ joins the call by AIJA

president Rahimullah Samander for all armed groups to call off their attacks on

journalists and desist from taking them hostage for pecuniary or political

gain.

 

“The IFJ is concerned that the

dangers for journalism in Afghanistan

emanate not merely from the armed insurgent groups,

but also from state agencies unprepared to respect the basic credo of the

profession,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

 

Mid-June,

two journalists for Al-Jazeera’s Arabic news channel were taken into custody by

Afghanistan’s

National Security Directorate (NSD) after a report they prepared was held to be

“in favour of terrorism”.

 

The report was partly based on an

interview with a Taliban militia leader in Kunduz province, who was quoted as saying that he had a number of

suicide bombers at his disposal,

ready to strike at any moment. The German commander of NATO forces in the

region was also interviewed in the report.

 

Qais Azimy and Hamdullah Shah were

taken into custody on June 14 and held for three days,

reportedly handcuffed to a chair and deprived of sleep.

 

Their interrogators reportedly

accused them of broadcasting “fake” material and demanded to see all the

material they had recorded in preparing their news reports.

 

“The IFJ calls on Afghanistan’s

President to retract damaging comments that he made on this case and to acknowledge

publicly that independent journalism may bring home hard truths to him and the

people of the country,” White said.

 

“We advise the message be heeded, and condemn punishment of the messenger.”

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents

over 600,000 journalists in 120

countries