Rights groups criticize ‘arrest’ of 2 Afghan journalists, Taliban deny hand

(Update 1: adds Taliban reaction, updates headline accordingly)

Kabul, Feb 1 (EFE).- Several human rights groups on Tuesday criticized the Taliban security forces for allegedly arresting two reporters of Afghan broadcaster Ariana News, although the regime has denied its involvement in their disappearance.

Afghan journalists Aslam Hijab and Waris Aslam were arrested on Monday by the Taliban, although the reasons behind the arrests and the reporters’ whereabouts are still unknown.

“Their families and we, both are looking for the reason of our collogues’ arrest, but still haven’t been able to receive any kind of information in this regard”, the head of reporting for Ariana News, Ali Jawad Asghari, told EFE.

The arrest was condemned by many journalists and human rights groups, who demanded their release and respect for freedom of press in Afghanistan.

The Free Speech Hub urged the Taliban-led government to “immediately release the detained journalists and not suppress freedom of expression in Afghanistan.”

Amnesty International also said that the detentions were “not justifiable,” and added that such moves pose a “grave threat to the right to freedom of expression.”

“The Taliban must unconditionally and immediately release them,” AI tweeted.

Similarly the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan urged the Taliban to “make public why they detained these Ariana News reporters & to respect Afghans’ rights.”

On Thursday the UNAMA had appealed to the government to not curtail freedom of expression for the media and journalists with different points of view, after the fundamentalist regime banned a press conference on the situation of media in the country.

However, late on Tuesday, the Taliban intelligence denied that it had arrested the journalists.

“We haven’t arrested the Ariana Tv journalists, and at the same time we shared the issue with other security departments for gathering information,” Khalil Hamraz, the spokesperson of the Taliban’s main intelligence agency – the General Deportment of Intelligence – said in a voice clip circulated to local media.

Earlier in the day ,Afghan interior ministry spokesperson Aqeel Jan Ezaam had also refused to confirm the arrest to EFE, simply saying that such operations were carried out by intelligence agencies and only they possessed information in this regard.

The Taliban’s ascent to power, after they seized Kabul on Aug. 15, has had a negative impact on freedom of expression in Afghanistan, several local and international groups have warned.

In mid-January, a poll conducted by Afghanistan’s National Journalists Union showed that 95 percent of the surveyed journalists across the country’s 34 provinces agreed that there was a lack of freedom under the Taliban regime.

Establishment of independent media outlets was one of the major achievements of the last two decades in Afghanistan after the fall of the previous Taliban regime in 2001. EFE


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