New York, February 8, 2023 – Taliban authorities must immediately release journalist Mortaza Behboudi and stop intimidating and arbitrarily detaining members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
On January 7, members of the Taliban’s General Directorate of Intelligence detained Behboudi, a reporter and cofounder of the independent news website Guiti News, in the capital city of Kabul, according to the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Voice of America and three people familiar with the matter who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal from the Taliban.
The sources told CPJ that Behboudi, who has dual Afghan and French citizenship, is detained in the GDI’s headquarters in Kabul. On February 6, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed to Voice of America that Behboudi was detained by the GDI, saying that details of his case could not be made public “but he is fine and he was treated well.”
“The Taliban must release French Afghan journalist Mortaza Behboudi immediately and stop the growing trend of detaining foreign journalists in Afghanistan,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Beh Lih Yi. “The Taliban’s intelligence agency has been the driving force behind the recent crackdown on press freedom in the country. The General Directorate of Intelligence must stop this attack on the media at once.”
At about 10:30 a.m. on January 7, Behboudi called several human rights activists and arranged to meet with them at 11; half an hour later, he did not arrive at the planned meeting place and his cellphone was turned off, one of those people familiar with his case told CPJ.
Behboudi is an award-winning journalist and photographer who focuses on migration and refugee issues; he was named one of Forbes magazine’s “30 under 30” in 2019.
CPJ messaged the GDI for comment but did not receive any reply.
CPJ has documented the GDI’s expanded role in persecuting and abusing journalists in Afghanistan since the Taliban took back control in August 2021.