New York, September 22, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the detention of two Afghan journalists seized by International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in early-morning raids at their homes this week.
Rahmatullah Nekzad, a freelancer who contributes to Al-Jazeera and The Associated Press,was arrested just after midnight Monday in Ghazni, according to local and international media reports. Mohammed Nader,a staff correspondent for Al-Jazeera, was arrested about 4 a.m. Wednesday in Kandahar. Another person was taken with Nader, but that individual’s identity was not immediately clear.
In an e-mailed statement to CPJ, ISAF media affairs officer Lt. Cdr. Katie Kendrick said broadly that “Afghan and coalition forces had intelligence information linking the men to Taliban propaganda networks.”
Samer Allawi, Al-Jazeera’s bureau chief in Kandahar, told CPJ that ISAF would not disclose specific details of the arrests, including the two journalists’ current whereabouts. He noted that, like many journalists, the two men have contact with all parties in the conflict, including the Taliban.
“We are very concerned by the detentions of Mohammed Nader and Rahmatullah Nekzad, and we call on ISAF to immediately detail why and where they are being held,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.
Since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, CPJ has documented several cases in which journalists have been detained in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. Most were released without charge after being held for brief periods, but two were held for prolonged periods without ever being charged or tried:
Sami Muhyideen al-Haj, a 35-year-old Sudanese national who was an assistant cameraman for Al-Jazeera, was arrested by Pakistani authorities along the Afghan-Pakistani border while on assignment for the network in December 2001. He was later transferred to the U.S. military facility in Guantanamo Bay and held as an accused “enemy combatant.” He was released in May 2008 without ever being charged with a crime.
In October 2007 Jawed Ahmad, a field producer for the Canadian broadcaster CTV, was arrested while visiting the ISAF airbase in Kandahar. Pentagon officials said in a letter to CPJ that Ahmad had been designated an “unlawful enemy combatant,” but they did not disclose specific allegations or evidence against him. U.S. officials released Ahmad in September 2008 from the U.S.-run detention facility at Bagram airbase, saying that he no longer posed a threat to U.S.-led forces. Ahmad, who was never charged with a crime, was later killed in an unexplained drive-by shooting in Kandhar.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that a third Afghan journalist, Hojatullah Mojadadi, a radio reporter and a leader of the Kapisa province journalists association, was arrested on Saturday by the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency. The Times quoted Abdul Halim Hayar, a spokesman for the governor. CPJ is seeking details on Mojadadi’s status.