Taliban soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint in Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 6, 2023. Authorities recently arrested journalist Irfanullah Baidar. (Reuters/Ali Khara)

Taliban intelligence forces detain Afghan journalist Irfanullah Baidar

New York, July 21, 2023 — The Taliban must immediately release journalist Irfanullah Baidar and stop detaining members of the press in Afghanistan, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday. 

On July 12, officers with the Taliban General Directorate of Intelligence stopped Baidar near the Eidgah Mosque in the eastern city of Jalalabad, covered his head with a sack, and forced him into a vehicle, according to news reports and an Afghan journalist familiar with his case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation.

As of Friday, July 21, CPJ could not determine where Baidar, a reporter for the broadcaster Radio Safa who reported on current affairs and cultural issues, was being held or whether any charges had been filed against him.

“The Taliban must immediately and unconditionally release Afghan journalist Irfanullah Baidar,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Beh Lih Yi. “Nearly two years since the Taliban seized power, Afghan journalists continue to face a relentless campaign of intimidation on a daily basis simply for doing their job.”

Radio Safa director Ismail Hazrati was quoted in those news reports saying that Baidar had worked with the station since 2009. Hazrati said that he had contacted Taliban authorities after the journalist’s disappearance but had not received any information about his whereabouts.

CPJ contacted Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid for comment via messaging app but did not receive any response.

In August 2022, CPJ published a special report about the media crisis in Afghanistan, showing a rapid deterioration in press freedom since the Taliban retook control of the country one year earlier, marked by censorship, arrests, assaults, and restrictions on Afghan journalists. Since the takeover, the General Directorate of Intelligence has emerged as a key threat to journalists in the country.