Editor of women’s rights magazine arrested

New York, October 3, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by reports that police arrested the editor of a women’s rights’ magazine in Kabul on Saturday after local religious leaders accused him of publishing anti-Islamic articles.

The High Court ordered the arrest of Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, editor of the monthly Haqooq-i-Zan (Women’s Rights), after articles published in the magazine were deemed “un-Islamic” and “insulting to Islam” by local clerics, the Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) and the Committee to Protect Afghan Journalists reported. An AIJA representative met with Nasab this morning in Kabul’s Central Jail, and the editor denied publishing anti-Islamic material.

A member of the Kabul court, Zmarai Amiri, confirmed to the Pajhwok Afghan News wire service that Nasab was jailed for publishing anti-Islamic articles, which he said is prohibited under Afghanistan’s press law. Amiri did not specify which articles in the magazine were alleged to be anti-Islamic.

A cleric from the outskirts of Kabul filed a police complaint against the magazine three months ago, saying it published material “against Islamic teachings,” Pajhwok Afghan News reported.

President Hamid Karzai signed a revised media law in March 2004 that carried over an existing ban on content deemed “insulting” to Islam. Criminal penalties for press offenses were left vaguely worded, leaving open the possibility of punishment in accordance with the conservative Shariah law. When the law was signed, government officials said that journalists could only be detained with the approval of a 17- member commission of government officials and journalists.

“We are disturbed by this arrest, which reflects a recent pattern of deteriorating press freedom conditions in Afghanistan,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call for the immediate release of Ali Mohaqiq Nasab. Journalists should not be jailed because of their work.”

In 2003, two editors of the weekly Aftab were jailed for a week on blasphemy charges for publishing a controversial series of articles condemning crimes committed by senior Afghan leaders in the name of Islam. The two editors were later cleared of the charges, but they were forced to leave the country because of threats against their lives.