New York, August 22, 2023 — Taliban authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Iranian photojournalist Mohammad Hossein Velayati and cease harassing members of the press in Afghanistan, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On August 19, Taliban authorities detained Velayati, a photographer for Iran’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency, at Kabul International Airport before he boarded a flight to Iran, according to his employer and a reporter in Kabul familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of retaliation by the Taliban.
Velayati had travelled to Afghanistan for a 10-day personal visit, according to those sources. Authorities have not disclosed any reason for Velayati’s detention or where he was being held as of Tuesday.
“The detention of Iranian photojournalist Mohammad Hossein Velayati is the latest blow to press freedom in Afghanistan, as the Taliban has ramped up its efforts to crack down on the media in recent weeks,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Kuala Lumpur. “Taliban authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Velayati, explain why they detained him in the first place, and end these arbitrary arrests once and for all.”
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid did not respond to a CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app.
The Taliban has detained at least five other journalists this month on claims they worked for media outlets operating from exile. Authorities also banned women’s voices from broadcasts in Helmand province.
Since the fall of Kabul on August 15, 2021, the Taliban’s repression of the Afghan media has worsened. On the second anniversary of the group’s return to power, CPJ called on the Taliban to stop its relentless campaign of intimidation and abide by its promise to protect journalists in Afghanistan.