New York, July 5, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned by the arrest of two reporters for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in Asa’ad Abad, the capital of Konar Province in eastern Afghanistan late last week. The reporters remain in custody in the capital, Kabul, according to Radio Free Afghanistan’s chief editor, Sharifa Sharif.
Intelligence officers arrested Rohullah Anwari, Konar-based reporter for RFE/RL, and Shershah Hamdard, an RFE/RL reporter based in Jalalabad, while they were covering the crash of a U.S. military helicopter shot down on June 28. Anwari was arrested on Friday and Hamdard on Saturday in Asa’ad Abad, RFE/RL reported yesterday. Authorities searched Hamdard’s house in Jalalabad, according to Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency.
After the journalists were transferred to Kabul, they staged a hunger strike to protest their detention, according to a statement from the local media organizations, the Afghanistan Independent Journalist Association and the Committee to Protect Afghan Journalists. Local media groups condemned the arrests and reported that another journalist and his driver were arrested in separate raids in Konar Province last week. Details on the other arrests were not immediately available.
Three RFE/RL officials, including Kabul Bureau Chief Mohamed Amin Mudaqiq, met with their jailed reporters this morning, Sharif said.
Authorities have not clarified the reason for the arrest of the reporters, but intelligence officers are searching the journalists’ equipment for evidence of contact with Taliban militants, according to CPJ sources.
“We are deeply concerned that these two journalists were arrested simply for doing their jobs, reporting on important events in Konar Province,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Afghan authorities should release them immediately and unconditionally.”