Taliban fighters guard an education center in Kabul, Afghanistan, in September 2022. CPJ called on Taliban authorities to investigate the beating and harassment of two Afghan journalists in October 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Armed men beat 2 Afghan journalists, leaving 1 unconscious

New York, November 11, 2022 – Taliban authorities must investigate the beating and harassment of two Afghan journalists and take immediate action to protect members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On the evening of October 31, three men armed with guns stopped reporter Niaz Mohammad Khaksar as he walked home in District 7 in the city of Jalalabad in eastern Nangarhar province, according to Khaksar, who spoke to CPJ by phone, and a report by U.K.-based Afghanistan International.

The men questioned him about his identity, his background as a journalist, and his work at the privately owned independent Enikass Radio and TV, according to those sources. Khaksar said one of the men punched him in the eye, and the other two started beating him in the head, legs, and stomach after he said he was a journalist, leaving him unconscious.

Separately, on October 18, two men armed with guns took Ezatullah Salimi, a reporter and presenter with the privately owned Spogmai FM, from his office in the capital, Kabul, and held him in their car for three hours while questioning and beating him, according to Salimi, who spoke to CPJ by phone, and security footage of the abduction reviewed by CPJ.

“The Taliban must investigate the beating and harassment of Afghan journalists Niaz Mohammad Khaksar and Ezatullah Salimi, and bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator in Frankfurt, Germany. “Violence against journalists must not go unpunished. The Taliban should also stop detention and harassment of journalists in Afghanistan and allow the media to operate freely.”

Residents sent Khaksar to the Fatema Zahra hospital, where he regained consciousness after a few hours and was hospitalized for a day, he said. As a result of the beating, Khaksar has bruises on his left eye and back, according to pictures reviewed by CPJ.

The attackers questioned Salimi about his journalistic activities, and when he defended his reporting, he said one of the men punched him in the head and slapped him in the face. They continued to punch and slap him on the face, head, and upper body as they questioned and accused him of anti-Taliban reporting.

When they approached a Taliban checkpoint, one of the men shocked him in the neck with some type of electric tool and told him to keep silent, said Salimi. The men also searched his cell phone and released him from the vehicle, threatening him with sexual assault and murder if he ever disclosed the incident.

Salimi said he tried to report the attack to Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid but did not receive a reply. Mujahid did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app.