Washington, D.C., May 6, 2022 – Taliban authorities must immediately release Afghan journalist Khalid Qaderi, drop all charges against him, and stop detaining and imprisoning members of the press for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
A Taliban military court in the western city of Herat sentenced Qaderi to one year in prison for allegedly spreading anti-regime propaganda and committing espionage for foreign media outlets, according to news reports, a tweet by the journalist’s sister Homaira Qaderi, and a local journalist familiar with the case, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal from the Taliban.
Qaderi did not have access to a defense lawyer, and Taliban authorities forced him to sign a document agreeing not to appeal the verdict, that journalist said. His case is CPJ’s first documented instance of a journalist being tried, convicted, and sentenced for their work since the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan in August 2021.
The ruling was issued in mid-April and the journalist was notified 10 days after his appearance in court, according to those sources, which did not provide exact dates for the proceedings.
Qaderi is a reporter and producer of cultural programs for Radio Nawruz, an independent broadcaster in Herat province, and also publishes poetry, according to those sources.
“Taliban authorities must immediately and unconditionally release journalist Khalid Qaderi, and ensure that members of the press are not imprisoned for their work,” said CPJ Asia Coordinator Steven Butler. “Trying and convicting a journalist on vague charges using shoddy legal proceedings marks an ominous new phase in the Taliban’s crackdown on Afghanistan’s once-thriving independent media.”
Taliban intelligence forces detained Qaderi in Herat on March 17, and his family was unaware of his whereabouts for almost a week, during which he was beaten in a detention center, according to media reports and the journalist who talked to CPJ on condition of anonymity.
CPJ contacted Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid for comment via messaging app, but did not receive any response.
CPJ has documented the increasingly prominent role of the General Directorate of Intelligence in controlling news media and intimidating journalists in Afghanistan.