New York, February 1, 2022 — The Taliban must immediately release journalists Waris Hasrat and Aslam Hijab and stop detaining members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On Monday, men who identified themselves as members of the Taliban arrested Hijab, a reporter, and Hasrat, manager of political programs and a political presenter, both with the independent broadcaster Ariana News TV, at the entrance of outlet’s headquarters in District 3 of Kabul, the capital, according to former Ariana News Director Sharif Hassanyar, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, and a statement by the independent press freedom group Free Speech Hub.
The Taliban has not disclosed where the journalists are being held or any allegations against them, Hassanyar said. Ahmadullah Wasiq, a Taliban deputy spokesperson in Afghanistan, did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app.
“The Taliban must immediately and unconditionally release Ariana News journalists Waris Hasrat and Aslam Hijab, and stop the arbitrary arrests of media personnel,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “The continued harassment and arrest of journalists is destroying what had been an immensely valuable asset for the Afghan people: a thriving media culture.”
The Taliban members first contacted Hijab while he was out reporting and said they needed to search his office, Hassanyar said. When Hijab met the men at Ariana News’s headquarters, they covered his head with a sack, handcuffed him, and put him in a vehicle.
Hasrat approached the Taliban members and asked why they were detaining Hijab; the men then questioned him about his position at Ariana News, and handcuffed and arrested him, Hassanyar said.
Following the two arrests, Ariana News leaders kept staff members inside the building for several hours, as they feared that more employees would be detained, Hassanyar told CPJ.
Ariana News airs many political discussion shows featuring guests critical of the Taliban-led government, and is among the most-viewed TV broadcasters in Afghanistan.
On December 28, 2021, Taliban forces briefly detained Ariana News journalist Shapoor Farahmand and interrogated him about his reporting, according to the journalist and news reports.
[Editors’ note: This article has been changed to correct the spelling of Sharif Hassanyar’s name.]