Three journalists freed in Afghanistan

New York, September 24, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes today’s release of three journalists detained in Afghanistan over the past week. 

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) released Rahmatullah Nekzad, a freelance contributor to Al-Jazeera and The Associated Press detained Monday in Ghazni province, and Mohammed Nader, an Al-Jazeera cameraman taken Wednesday in southern Kandahar city, according to international news reports.

The two were not charged with a crime but were vaguely accused of having links to Taliban media. Colleagues noted that, like other journalists in Afghanistan, Nekzad and Nader had contacts with various parties to the conflict, including the Taliban.

NATO said in a statement that a third journalist, Hojatullah Mojadadi, a radio station manager from Kapisa province, was also free. Afghan intelligence agents had arrested Mojadadi on Saturday for reasons that were not disclosed. The NATO statement did not elaborate, AP reported.

“We are pleased that ISAF released Rahmatullah Nekzad and Mohammed Nader quickly, although they should not have been detained in the first place” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. “The release of Hojatullah Mojadadi, who had apparently been held by the Afghan government, is also welcome.”

Coalition forces have detained several journalists working in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater since the U.S. led invasion in late 2001, according to CPJ research. Most were held briefly, but two were detained for prolonged periods. Jawed Ahmed, a producer who contributed to Canada’s  CTV, was held for 11 months at Bagram airbase. Al-Jazeera correspondent Sami al-Haj was detained crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan in December 2001, and held for six years at the U.S. military facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Both were released without charge. Ahmed was later murdered in an unexplained drive-by shooting.