CPJ condemns journalist’s arrest

New York, September 6, 2005—Afghan journalists today protested the detention of reporter and editor Ezatullah Zawab, who was arrested on September 2 in Jalalabad, capital of eastern Nangarhar province, after crticising local government officials. Zawab is a staff correspondent for the independent news service Pajhwok Afghan News and editor of the monthly Meena magazine.

Local religious leaders demanded his arrest after he wrote an article in Meena accusing officials in the province’s information, tourism and religious affairs departments of incompetence, according to Pajhwok and the Afghan Independent Journalist Association (AIJA). AIJA said in a statement that the religious leaders considered the article to be an “insult.”

Journalist unions and press freedom groups across the country held meetings to protest Zawab’s arrest.

“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Ezatullah Zawab,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “This is a blow to press freedom and sends the wrong message to other reporters in Afghanistan and to the international community,”

The Afghan media has grown significantly since the fall of the Taliban administration in December 2001. However, journalists remain vulnerable to attack and imprisonment especially in the remote provinces where local governors and warlords wield unchecked power. Two radio reporters from Radio Europe/Radio Liberty were arrested and held for a week in July in the eastern Konar Province. Read more about their case