Japanese journalist detained in Taliban territory

November 1, 2001 ­ The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is very concerned by the detention of Japanese journalist Daigen Yanagida in Taliban-controlled territory. Yanagida was arrested on October 22 in Asadabad, near the border with Pakistan, and is currently being held in Jalalabad for questioning, according to Japanese and international news sources.

Yanagida was arrested on suspicion of illegal entry into Afghanistan. On October 29, the journalist spoke by telephone with a Japanese colleague in Pakistan and said he was being well treated.

Yanagida, a free-lance journalist, was based in Nairobi, Kenya, but traveled extensively around the world. According to his family, he left Japan on October 15, after notifying a Tokyo publishing company that he intended to write a book about Afghanistan.

“Yanagida and other journalists who enter Afghanistan are taking extraordinary risks to report on the most important news story in recent history,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “By arresting them, the Taliban is preventing objective information about conditions in Afghanistan from reaching the outside world.”

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., the ruling Taliban has not allowed any foreign journalists into the country, except small, select groups that have been given guided tours of the war zone.

On October 27, the Taliban Foreign Ministry warned that all foreigners entering the country without proper papers would face “serious measures,” including spying charges, according to the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), a Pakistan-based news agency with close ties to the Taliban.

“Sometimes these spies enter our sacred land as a journalist and sometimes as an aid worker,” the Foreign Ministry warned. “This is an act against the internal and external security and sovereignty of an independent country.”

Under Taliban law, espionage is punishable by death.

Yanagida is the fourth journalist to be detained by the Taliban since September 11. French reporter Michel Peyrard, Pakistani journalist Mukkaram Khan, and a Pakistani guide are being held in Jalalabad on spying charges.

On October 27, a Taliban spokesman announced that Peyrard would be brought to trial in “a few days time.” Yvonne Ridley, a British reporter for the Sunday Express newspaper, was detained on September 28 and released on October 8.