New York, January 22, 2024—Taliban authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Afghan journalist Ehsan Akbari and stop harassing and detaining members of the press for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On January 17, the Taliban’s Government Media Information Center (GMIC) summoned Akbari, the assistant bureau chief of Japanese media outlet Kyodo News, to their office in the capital, Kabul, and officials from the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) agency detained the journalist and took him to an undisclosed location, according to news reports and a Kyodo News representative who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, as they did not have permission to speak publicly.
The following day, Taliban intelligence officials forced Akbari to call his family, instructing them to hand over his mobile phone to agents waiting at the family residence, according to those sources. Members of the Taliban intelligence unit raided the Kyodo office in Kabul on the same day, seizing security and video recording cameras, laptops, a satellite phone, and documents.
“Taliban authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Kyodo News journalist Ehsan Akbari and stop detaining Afghan journalists in retaliation for their work,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Beh Lih Yi. “Akbari’s detention and the raid on the Kyodo office in Kabul are excessive and highlight the systematic media crackdown in Afghanistan led by the GDI intelligence agency. The Taliban must abide by its promise to allow journalists to report freely.”
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed Akbari’s detention and the seizure of his work equipment. He told CPJ via messaging app that the journalist was detained because he had been “in contact with anti-government [Taliban] circles and transferred information to them.”
Since the Taliban retook control of the country on August 15, 2021, the Taliban’s repression of the Afghan media has worsened. Last year, it detained several Afghan journalists on charges of reporting for exiled media.