New York, July 14, 2014–A Pakistani television journalist was convicted on charges of travelling to Afghanistan without travel documents and sentenced to four years in prison, Pakistani officials said on Sunday. He had initially been accused of spying by Afghan authorities, according to news reports.
An Afghan court in eastern Nangarhar province convicted Faizullah Khan, a reporter for the Karachi-based privately owned news channel ARY News, of illegally entering the country and sentenced him last week, ARY News Senior Vice President Ammad Yousaf told CPJ by phone.
Afghan authorities had also accused of Khan of spying, but the three-judge bench dismissed the espionage charge, according to his lawyer, The Express Tribune reported.
Khan had traveled to Peshawar in April to report along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and had been regularly checking in with his colleagues, according to Yousaf. Then he suddenly stopped communicating. A few days later, on April 27, ARY received a call informing the channel that Khan was being detained in a Jalalabad jail, Yousaf told CPJ. Khan had traveled to the region to interview Taliban leaders, news reports said.
“We call on Afghan authorities to immediately release Faizullah Khan,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. “No journalist should face such a harsh prison term for going about reporting.”
In the days following Khan’s arrest, ARY notified Pakistani officials, who raised concerns with tribal chiefs and officials in Afghanistan, but were unsuccessful at gaining Khan’s release, Yousaf told CPJ.
An appeal in the case has been filed, he said.