Two Al-Jazeera producers detained in Afghanistan

New York, June 15, 2009–Intelligence officials at the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Kabul should immediately release two Afghan journalists detained on Sunday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

Qais Azimy and Hameedullah Shah, producers for Al-Jazeera, were detained separately on Sunday, two days before the country’s presidential election campaigns are set to begin, according to according to an Al-Jazeera press release and a report on the Al-Jazeera English Web site. The Interior Ministry and NDS did not respond to requests by Reuters and Agence France-Presse for comment on the situation.

Al Anstey, director of news for Al-Jazeera English, told CPJ by telephone this morning from the headquarters in Doha that the network had been “given no reason for their being detained. There has been no mention of any charge, and we are continuing to press the government to release them.”  

David Chater, an Al-Jazeera correspondent in Kabul, said authorities may have been angered by a story the network broadcast Friday showing Azimy interviewing Taliban fighters in Northern Afghanistan, according to the Al-Jazeera report.

“Unless Afghan authorities have evidence that they are prepared to publish against Qais Azimy and Hameedullah Shah, the journalists should be released immediately,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia Program Coordinator. “It is essential that journalists be allowed to cover all news freely, especially in the run-up to the presidential elections.”

Azimy was told by officials to report to the country’s intelligence headquarters of the National Directorate of Security and has been held since, according to an Al-Jazeera press release and international news reports. “The NDS summoned Qais and said it was to answer some simple questions and later they sent men to our office to take Mohammad Shah as well,” AFP quoted journalist Waliullah Shaheen as saying. Two officials arrested Shah at the network’s Kabul bureau the same day, the reports said. Azimy is a producer for Al-Jazeera English; Shah works for Al-Jazeera Arabic, according to the reports.