CPJ demands release of French journalist and Pakistani guides

New York, October 16, 2001—
CPJ is deeply concerned by the prolonged detention of French journalist Michel Peyrard and his guides, Pakistani nationals Mukkaram Khan and Mohammad Irfan. Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban regime has accused all three of spying, a charge that carries the death penalty.

Peyrard is a reporter for the weekly magazine Paris Match. Khan, a correspondent for the national Urdu-language daily Nawa-i-Waqt, and Irfan, an administrator at an Islamic school in Peshawar, were working as Peyrard’s guides when he entered Afghanistan under the cover of a burqa gown. The three were detained about 20 miles from the eastern city of Jalalabad on October 9.

“When Taliban officials hosted a group of foreign journalists last weekend, they seemed to be acknowledging the need to have witnesses to the war,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Peyrard, Irfan, and Khan were working to report on the ground realities in Afghanistan and should be released immediately.”

Last week, Taliban intelligence chief Mullah Taj Meer told Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), a Pakistan-based news agency with close links to the Taliban, that Peyrard, Khan, and Irfan had been caught with “spying equipment,” including a satellite phone, and would be tried for espionage.

A Pakistani journalist who visited the detainees in Jalalabad earlier this week said all three were being held in a large house and were in good health, according to Paris Match managing editor Olivier Royant, who is in Islamabad working for their release.

Paris Match has supplied Taliban representatives in Islamabad with documentary evidence of Peyrard’s journalistic credentials. Peyrard has worked at Paris Match since 1983 and has reported from Kosovo and Chechnya, as well as from Kuwait during the Gulf War.