New York, June 9, 2022 — The Taliban must investigate the beating of journalist Reza Shahir, and immediately drop all charges against journalists Firoz Ghafori, Basira Mosamem, and Olugh Beig Ghafori, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
At about midnight on June 3, Taliban forces stopped Shahir while he was on his way to his home in Kabul’s District 18, searched him, and then punched him in the head and beat him on the shoulder with an AK-47, knocking him unconscious, according to media reports and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
The Taliban fighters left him unconscious in the street and took his mobile phone, Shahir told CPJ. Shahir previously worked as a reporter for the local broadcaster Rahe Farda TV, before the Taliban beat and detained him in April; since then, he has worked as a freelancer, he said.
Separately, on May 4, the Taliban prosecutor’s office in Faryab province detained and questioned Firoz Ghafori, Mosamem, and Olugh Beig Ghafori for about three hours, and then released them on bail after charging them with criminal insult, according to media reports and Firoz Ghafori, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
The charges stem from the journalists’ 2019 and 2020 reporting on corruption allegations involving a government official who remained in power following the Taliban takeover, Ghafori said.
“Taliban leaders must take action to prevent their members from attacking journalists like Reza Shahir, and must immediately drop the spurious charges against three journalists in Faryab province over an old corruption case,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The detentions, beatings, and harassment of media workers has continued to rise in Afghanistan under the Taliban, which indicates a worrisome trend for press freedom.”
Shahir told CPJ that the Taliban fighters beat him after they searched his mobile phone and found screenshots of media reports about his April detention and beating. He said the men cursed at him and accused him of being a spy and working for foreign governments.
Shahir said he sustained light injuries from the attack and did not need to go to a hospital.
Officers with the Faryab Police Criminal Investigation Directorate first questioned Firoz Ghafori, a representative of the Afghanistan Journalist Safety Committee in Faryab and a production manager with the local broadcaster Tamana Radio; Mosamim, a former journalist who worked on corruption reporting with Firoz Ghafori; and Olugh Beig Ghafori, a freelance journalist; about their reporting on April 28, according to Firoz Ghafori. He said authorities then summoned them again on May 4, when the provincial prosecutor’s office filed the insult charge.
Ghafori told CPJ that he did not know the exact penalty the journalists could face if convicted, but feared they could face prison time. He said that no court date had been set.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app.