Concern growing over Afghan journalist’s ongoing detention

New York, February 21, 2008—The U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed that the U.S. military is holding Canadian Television journalist (CTV) Jawed Ahmad, but refused to disclose any further information. The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned by Ahmad’s continuing detention at Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan. Ahmad has been held since October 26, according to CTV.

Other than a short phone message on Tuesday in response to a request for more information about Ahmad, the Department of Defense has made no more information available to CPJ or his family. A Defense Department official only confirmed to CPJ that Ahmad is in U.S. military custody, but the reasons for his detention are classified.

“We are greatly concerned that Jawed Ahmad has not received any sort of due process in this case,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Canadian Television and reporters in Afghanistan—foreign and local—have made it clear that Ahmad is a working journalist. The military must either clarify the charges against him or release him immediately.”

Ahmad, who is also known as Jojo Yazemi and is about 22 years old, was detained in Kandahar at the end of October 2007, according to his brother, Siddique Ahmad. Siddique, who has spoken with CPJ through a translator by phone from Afghanistan, said he had last communicated with his brother via a video link provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul on January 29.

CTV officials say they believe Ahmad was detained on October 26, which was when Siddique called correspondent Paul Workman, Ahmad’s colleague near Kandhahar, to tell him of his detention. CTV says Jawed had worked for them for about two years and is currently under contract with them.

Bagram Air Base is a U.S.-operated facility, and has been widely reported to contain a detention facility. Ahmad was arrested on a base used by NATO forces in Kandahar, according to CTV. It is not clear when he was transferred to Bagram.

Two other journalists are being held by the U.S. military, according to CPJ research: Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, who had been held by the U.S. military without charge for nearly 20 months was finally given a closed-door hearing in an Iraq court on December 9. During the seven-hour hearing, Hussein was not charged with a crime. Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj has been held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for more than five years without charge and is in failing health. No charges have ever been brought against the Sudanese journalist.