Taliban intelligence agents detained American journalist and independent filmmaker Ivor Shearer on August 17, 2022, when he was filming in Kabul. As of late 2022, CPJ was unable to verify his whereabouts or health status.
Security guards stopped Shearer and Afghan producer Faizullah Faizbakhsh while they were filming in the Sherpur area of District 10 in the capital Kabul, where a U.S. drone strike killed Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri earlier in August, according to a report by U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster VOA Dari and two journalists familiar with the case, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
The guards questioned them about their activities and checked their work permits, ID cards, and passports. Then they confiscated the journalists’ cellphones, detained them for a couple of hours, and repeatedly called them “American spies,” the journalists familiar with the case said.
Then the guards called Taliban intelligence. Around 50 armed intelligence operatives arrived later and blindfolded Shearer and Faizbakhsh, before transferring them to an unknown location, the journalists familiar with the case said.
Shearer arrived in Afghanistan in February on a one-month visa after receiving a work permit from the Taliban Ministry of Foreign Affairs to produce a documentary about the last 40 years of Afghanistan’s history, the journalists familiar with the case said. His film and video work has been shown across the United States and internationally in museums and film festivals.
In March, he was granted a visa extension to stay until September 2022.
In June, the Taliban foreign affairs ministry summoned Shearer, and ministry spokesperson Abdul Qahar Balkhi questioned him and asked him to present his past work. In July, several Taliban intelligence agents visited a Kabul guest house where Shearer stayed to question him about his work and stay, one of the journalists familiar with the case said.
On August 16, Balkhi again summoned Shearer, the same journalist familiar with the case said. Shearer told the source that he was concerned about the summons and didn’t know if the Taliban would extend his visa beyond September or expel him from the country. CPJ was unable to confirm further details about the August 16 meeting.
When asked about “Shearer and his Afghan producer” during a September press briefing, a U.S. senior administration official said officials were “aware of that matter,” but did not elaborate. In November, a U.S. Department of State spokesperson told CPJ in a text: “Due to privacy considerations, we are unable to comment specifically other than to say we are aware of reports of a detained U.S. citizen in Afghanistan.”
As of late 2022, CPJ was not able to verify the reason for the detention of Shearer and Faizbakhsh, where they were held, or their health status.
CPJ contacted Balkhi and Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid for comment via messaging app in September but did not receive a response.