Kabul, Jul 27 (EFE).- The Afghan government on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of four local journalists – three reporters of a local radio channel and a photographer working for Chinese state news agency Xinhua – on charges of spreading pro-Taliban propaganda, triggering concerns over freedom of expression in the war-ridden country.
” Four (Afghan) journalists are detained in Kandahar on the charge of propagating in favor of the enemy,” interior ministry spokesperson Mirwais Stanekzai told EFE.
The arrested journalists include Bismillah Watandost, Qudratullah Sultani and Munib Obaidi from local broadcaster Voice of the Nation and Sanaullay Syaam, photojournalist for Xinhua.
The journalists were arrested by security forces on Monday once they returned from the Taliban-controlled Spin-Boldak area after interviewing a rebel commander, local media watchdog NAI said in a statement on Tuesday.
The watchdog term the arrest “illegal” and demanded that the journalists be released immediately.
“Illegal arrests and imprisoning of journalists will prevent them from preparing reports from war zones and about the situation of the people who are caught in conflict,” NAI said.
The South Asia chapter of Amnesty International has also expressed concern over the journos being arrest while “returning from Spin-Boldak district after investigating about civilian casualties.”
However, Stanekzai insisted that “any kind of propaganda in favor of the enemy and terrorists and against the national interests is considered a crime.”
The spokesperson said Kabul “is fully committed to and is respecting freedom of speech. But freedom of speech has its limits in the national constitution and other enforced laws.”
Ensuring freedom of expression and the establishment of a number of independent media outlets is considered one of the main achievements of the Afghan government in the last two decades, after the fall of the Taliban regime.