New York, October 9, 2001—CPJ is deeply concerned about the detention of French journalist Michel Peyrard and his two Pakistani guides in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. A Taliban official has accused Peyrard, a reporter for the magazine Paris Match, of spying.
The Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), a Pakistan-based news agency with close links to the Taliban, reported that Taliban officials arrested Peyrard and his guides on the morning of October 9 in Goshta, 35 kilometers (20 miles) east of Jalalabad. All three are now being held by intelligence services in Jalalabad.
AIP quoted Taliban officials who said Peyrard was carrying a satellite telephone, a tape recorder, and “other material for spy network” purposes.
“He was on a spying mission, and he cannot be provided any clemency or concession,” a Taliban spokesman told the AIP.
“Michel Peyrard is a veteran journalist who has worked for Paris Match for nearly 20 years,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We call on Taliban authorities to release Peyrard and his two colleagues immediately, and to allow the media access to Afghanistan at this crucial time.”
After the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the Taliban banned foreign journalists from entering the country.
Peyrard is the second journalist to have been arrested and accused of espionage by the Taliban in the last two weeks. The militia detained Yvonne Ridley, a British reporter for the Sunday Express newspaper, on September 28 but released her on October 8. [See CPJ alert on the case.]
Like Ridley, Peyrard crossed the border clad in an all-encompassing burqa gown. He had entered Afghanistan from Pakistan periodically during the last couple of weeks and spoke to his editors from Taliban-held territory on Sunday and Monday, according to Romain Clergeat, New York bureau chief for Paris Match.
Peyrard, 44, has covered the Gulf War and the conflict in Chechnya for Paris Match.