IFJ Welcomes Release of Journalist but Warns of Afghanistan “No-Go” Area As Media are Targeted

The International Federation of Journalists today warned that Afghanistan is fast-becoming a “no-go” area for news media following the kidnapping of a media team two weeks ago. The IFJ welcomed the release yesterday of Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo, following a deal with Taliban fighters, but said that concerns remain over the fate of interpreter Ajmal Naqshbandi, who is reportedly still being held.

The IFJ’s fear is that as an Afghani he runs the risk of receiving the same ruthless treatment handed out to the team’s driver Sayed Agha, who was beheaded by the captors.

“These thugs have shown no mercy to local journalists and media assistants,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “We are very happy that Daniele has been released unharmed but we are quite concerned about Ajmal. We are appealing for Ajmal’s safety and a sign from the government that they will do more to protect local journalists and media.”

Mastrogiacomo, a correspondent for Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica, was released by the Taliban on Monday after being held hostage for two weeks. He was kidnapped along with his interpreter Naqshbandi and driver Agha. Naqshbandi’s whereabouts are unknown.

“The killing of Sayed Agha was shocking and brutal and the government needs to make sure that this is not compounded by another killing,” White said. “The message to all journalists is clear – Afghanistan is becoming a no-go area for media staff.”

Naqshbandi’s father and Afghan journalists gathered at the steps of the ministry of information today to demand the government "spare no effort" to secure his release, according to Agence France-Presse.

Mastrogiacomo at first was accused of being a spy by his kidnappers. He was released in exchange for the Afghan government’s release of some Taliban prisoners, according to press reports. He was the second Italian journalist kidnapped in recent months in Afghanistan. Photographer Gabriele Torsello was kidnapped in October and released almost a month later.

The IFJ fears a lack of resolve by the authorities over Naqshbandi. “He should not be held as a pawn in the conflict in Afghanistan,” White said. “Journalists from home and abroad should get the same treatment. They are civilians and should be protected by international law.”

For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide