October 10, 2001, New York—CPJ is deeply concerned by the ruling Taliban’s announcement that journalist Michel Peyrard and his guides, Mukkaram Khan and Mohammad Irfan, will be tried on charges of espionage.
Peyrard, a French national, is a reporter for the weekly magazine Paris Match. Khan, a Pakistani, is the regional correspondent in Mohmand Agency for the national Urdu-language daily Nawa-i-Waqt, while Irfan, an administrator at an Islamic school in Peshawar, was working as Peyrard’s guide, according to local journalists.
Taliban officials told Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), a Pakistan-based news agency with close links to the Taliban, that they had formally charged Peyrard, Irfan, and Khan with spying on Wednesday, and that the men “will face a trial in a special court,” Taliban intelligence chief Mullah Taj Meer told AIP.
Meer also told AIP that, “Any journalists entering illegally into Afghanistan will be treated like an American soldier.” All foreign journalists have been barred from entering Afghanistan since the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.
The three men, who were arrested yesterday outside of Jalalabad [see news alert], were paraded through the streets of the city today while onlookers threw stones at them and “demanded that they be handed over to the people for punishment,” a source from the Taliban’s official Bakhtar News Agency told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Peyrard, Irfan, and Khan, who were forced to wear head-to-toe burqa gowns as they walked, were not injured during the incident. The French consulate in Pakistan confirmed this account, according to sources at Paris Match.
“CPJ condemns such brutal and inhumane treatment,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “By accusing all foreign journalists in the country of spying, the Taliban are vilifying the profession as a whole. Peyrard, Irfan, and Khan should be immediately released.”
British reporter Yvonne Ridley of the Sunday Express newspaper was similarly charged with spying before being released on October 8 and allowed to return to Britain [see news alert].
Peyrard entered Afghanistan from Pakistan, accompanied by Irfan and Khan, dressed in a burqa.