Television journalists threatened

New York, June 16, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about a series of threats being made against Afghan journalists at the popular private television station Tolo TV in the capital, Kabul.

Sayed Sulaiman Ashna, a senior journalist with Tolo TV and Radio Arman and the host of the evening news program “Tawdi Kharabari” (Hot Talk), started receiving threatening phone calls soon after a June 6 interview with ex-Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil. Ashna told CPJ that he had posed serious questions to Mutawakil in the interview, as he has done with the many other government officials who have appeared on his show since the station launched in October 2004. Soon after the show aired, unidentified individuals began calling Ashna, warning him that they know where he lives, accusing him of working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and threatening to kill him, Ashna told CPJ. Another caller warned him to stop broadcasting his program. Ashna says that this is not first time that he has received threats.

Massood Qiam, another Tolo TV reporter with the current affairs program “6:30 Report,” said that local authorities recently threatened and intimidated him and other journalists from the show after he began investigating questionable land deals involving the former royal family. Tolo TV Director Saad Mohseni reported the threats to police in Kabul.

“Threats against journalists in Afghanistan have become alarmingly routine. We are deeply concerned about our colleagues at Tolo TV, and call on authorities to track down those responsible for these threats and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Journalists should not face harassment or threats for simply doing their jobs—holding officials accountable for their actions and investigating alleged corruption.”

Another Tolo TV staffer, popular music video presenter Shakeb Isaar, is also still under threat and has been forced to live near the Tolo station in Kabul for his safety. According to Mohseni, Isaar was forced out of the Kabul Unversity journalism school in retaliation for his work on the channel, which is provocative by local standards. Isaar has been physically and verbally abused on numerous occasions, Mohseni told CPJ.

Shaima Rezayee, a former presenter on Tolo TV’s “Hop,” was found shot dead in her home last month. Police said that members of her family were being investigated, but no arrests have been made in the case

Read more about Rezayee’s death.