A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan on June 18, 2022. Taliban members beat one journalist and arbitrarily detained two others in May and June 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Taliban members beat journalist at Kabul checkpoint, detain 2 others

Washington, D.C., June 22, 2022 – Taliban authorities must investigate the beating of journalist Mohammad Ikram Esmati and immediately and unconditionally release journalist Abdul Hannan Mohammadi and broadcasting manager Khan Mohammad Sial, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

“The Taliban must take immediate measures to halt repeated arbitrary detentions and abuse of journalists in Afghanistan,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The Taliban must immediately release journalists Abdul Hannan Mohammadi and Khan Mohammad Sial and investigate the assault of Mohammad Ikram Esmati.”

On May 10, Taliban police in the provincial capital Trinkot in southern Uruzgan province detained Sial, a broadcast manager for independent Paiwaston TV station, and have held him in Uruzgan’s central prison since then, according to a journalist familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal, and tweets by veteran Afghanistan journalist Bilal Sarwary.

The journalist told CPJ that Taliban members beat Sial and told him to confess that his outlet was funded by foreigners and was both morally and financially corrupt. The Taliban members also told Sial that he would be released if he confessed, according to the journalist familiar with the case.

Separately, on June 14, Taliban intelligence agents detained Mohammadi, a reporter for Pajhwok news agency in northern Kapisa province, while he was on his way to an assignment and transferred him to an undisclosed location, according to a journalist familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation and independent news website Etilaatroz. CPJ was unable to confirm the reason for Mohammadi’s detention.

In a separate incident on June 14, Esmati, a former journalist for the independent Kabul News TV station, was stopped in District 5 of the capital Kabul and searched at a Taliban checkpoint by a Taliban member, who found his press identification cards and began questioning him about his journalism, according to Esmati, who spoke to CPJ by phone, and a BBC Persian report. Esmati was dismissed by the outlet one day before the assault for an unknown reason, according to those sources.

Three Taliban members then put Esmati in a vehicle, drove him to a remote area, and beat him with their guns and fists for approximately five minutes until he received a hard blow to the head and lost consciousness, according to those sources. Esmati said he believed he was unconscious for about 10 minutes and was alone when he woke up. Esmati was later treated at a hospital and said he was not seriously injured.

CPJ has documented the increasingly prominent role of the General Directorate of Intelligence in controlling news media and intimidating Afghanistan journalists.

CPJ contacted Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, for comment via messaging app but did not receive any response. CPJ was unable to determine contact information for Kabul News TV.