Members of the Taliban ride atop a military vehicle on the first anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, in Kabul, on August 31, 2022. The Taliban released American journalist Ivor Shearer on December 20, 2022, but continued to detain at least two Afghan journalists. (Reuters/Ali Khara)

Taliban releases American journalist Ivor Shearer; CPJ calls for more releases

New York, December 21, 2022 – In response to news reports that the Taliban released two Americans, including journalist and filmmaker Ivor Shearer, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement on Wednesday calling for the release of other Afghan journalists who remain behind bars:

“The release of journalist Ivor Shearer is a small relief after four months of unjust and arbitrary detention, and we call on the Taliban to immediately release all other journalists who are being held,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Beh Lih Yi. “The continued detention of Afghan journalists underscores the dire situation of press freedom in Afghanistan, which has gone from bad to worse with an intensifying crackdown on the media in the past year.”

Shearer arrived in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday after he was freed and appeared to be healthy, a source familiar with the matter told CPJ, asking not to be named for safety reasons.  

Afghan producer Faizullah Faizbakhsh, who was arrested along with Shearer on August 17 while they were filming in the Afghan capital Kabul, has not been released and his whereabouts remain unknown, the source added.

The Taliban authorities and U.S. State Department have not identified the two Americans who were released on Tuesday. Citing anonymous sources, CNN and The Washington Post reported that one of the two Americans was Shearer.

Taliban intelligence agents detained Shearer and Faizbakhsh while they were filming in Kabul, where a U.S. drone strike killed Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri earlier in August. 

Shearer was one of at least three journalists imprisoned in Afghanistan as of December 1, 2022, according to CPJ’s annual prison census. Afghanistan appeared on the list for the first time in 12 years after the Taliban took back control of the country in August 2021.