BBC translator detained in Kabul

December 18, 2000

His Excellency Mullah Mohammad Omar
Supreme Leader, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
c/o The Honorable Abdul Hakim Mujahid
Office of the Permanent Representative-Designate to the United Nations
55-16 Main Street – Suite 1D
Flushing, NY 11355
Fax: 718-661-2721

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about the safety of Abdul Saboor Salehzai, a translator for the BBC in Kabul who has been detained incommunicado since December 16.

Foreign Ministry officials confirmed that Salehzai was arrested on December 16, but have not disclosed his whereabouts. “We asked the BBC to dismiss Salehzai several times because we believe he is a communist,” Mohammad Osman Sheryar, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters. “He will remain in detention until the BBC has removed him.”

In a statement issued today, the BBC said it could not comply with the Taliban’s request for Salehzai’s dismissal, and that his detention was “unacceptable.”

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, CPJ strongly believes that governments should not dictate the staffing of news organizations. We respectfully urge you to order Salehzai’s immediate release, and allow him to continue his work at the BBC without further interference.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your reply.

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director