Afghan police beat, detain journalists during election

New York, August 20, 2009–Security forces obstructed, assaulted, and detained Afghan and foreign journalists in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan today, enforcing an official gag order on news of violent incidents during the presidential election. A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai told the press that information about attacks would discourage voter turnout. 

Police briefly detained at least three foreign journalists and several local journalists during the course of the day, according to news reports. Multiple accounts mentioned police beating journalists, threatening them with guns, and snatching equipment, but no serious injuries have been reported. Almost all the reported incidents occurred at the scene of attacks by militant groups.

Afghanistan’s Foreign and Interior ministries issued statements on Tuesday asking reporters to suppress news of violent incidents and stay away from sites of reported strikes during polling hours, which concluded this evening. Taliban spokesmen have threatened repeatedly to disrupt the election process, and terrorist violence has risen in the days running up to today’s vote, according to international news reports. 

“Security forces must stop detaining and assaulting reporters and allow free coverage of the elections and related violence,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “It’s editors, not governments, who decide what news to cover.”

Three Afghan journalists reporting in Kabul spoke with CPJ Asia Research Associate Madeline Earp today about their reactions to the government order. Read their responses, and more accounts from foreign journalists working in Afghanistan, on the CPJ Blog.

CPJ is also concerned about the following incidents of harassment today:

  • At least two Afghan journalists with Tolo TV were briefly detained, and three more beaten in the past two days, according to Saad Mohseni, Tolo’s founder and director, who could not immediately provide more details when CPJ reached him by telephone this morning.
  • Authorities detained Japanese journalist Kojiro Nobuhiro, a Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) television correspondent for several hours on Thursday morning, according to international news reports. TBS issued a statement saying he had been questioned about his coverage, according to Reuters.
  • The Christian Science Monitor said Dutch photojournalist Ruben Terlo and Rohulla Samadi, a translator with independent Afghan media organization Killid Media, were detained for 30 minutes after covering a gun battle between Taliban and police.

CPJ’s full Afghanistan coverage is available here.