Freed CBC reporter’s assistants still in detention

New York, November 12, 2008–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Afghan government to release Shokoor Feroz and his brother Quaim Feroz, the translator and driver of kidnapped CBC reporter Mellissa Fung, who was freed on November 8. 

The two men remain in custody, held without charge, according to the CBC and family members. The circumstances of the kidnapping are still not fully clear.

The brothers were with Fung at a refugee camp outside of Kabul when she was kidnapped by an unidentified group and held for 28 days. The two men were detained by government police soon after, on suspicion that there were in collusion with the kidnappers. Todd Spencer, CBC’s executive director for news content, who headed the crisis response to Fung’s kidnapping, said the organization has arranged for legal representation in Kabul. Spencer said the CBC considers them very reliableShokoor has worked with the CBC office in Kabul for about three years, he said.

In a news conference in Toronto on Sunday, after Fung’s release, John Cruickshank, publisher of CBC News, said that Shokoor’s release is “one of our next tasks.” A brother of the two men, Omid Feroz, told CPJ by phone from Kabul today that “My brothers are innocent. Our family does not understand why they are still being held.”

“The fate of these two men should not be forgotten,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “We call on the Afghan authorities to release them immediately. In the past, we have seen foreign journalists survive attacks while local journalists and media support workers are forced to pay a higher price.”

CPJ research shows that about 85 percent of all journalists who are killed for their work are local reporters. In March 2007, a Taliban group kidnapped La Repubblica reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo and an Afghan journalist, Ajmal Nakshbandi, and their driver, Sayed Agah. The driver was killed, and Nakshbandi was beheaded soon after Mastrogiacomo’s release.