UN flags arbitrary arrest, harassment of Afghan journalists

Kabul, Jun 1 (EFE).- The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on Wednesday denounced the arrest and mistreatment of Afghan journalists by the Taliban government, after a reporter was detained and beaten up over the weekend while covering a women’s protest.

“Harassment & violence against journalists in #Afghanistan continues. UNAMA reiterates its call to the Taliban to release all detained media workers & end Draconian measures, including arbitrary detentions and threats, against journalists and the press,” the UN mission tweeted.

Afghan journalism Roman Karimi was arrested on Sunday while on the way to cover a women’s protest in Kabul against rising poverty and unemployment in Afghanistan since the Taliban assuming power.

The demonstration was violently dispersed by the security forces.

“I called my driver to take me to the protest area. After ending the phone call, the Taliban intelligence arrested me and tortured me, even though I showed my ID card and told them I am a journalist. They warned me of more torture,” Karimi told EFE.

The head of the radio station that employs Karimi, Gul Mohammad Gran, on Wednesday protested against his colleague’s arrest and told EFE that the reporter and his driver were “detained by the Taliban government security forces for more than 5 hours.”

In Afghanistan, arrests of journalists for covering “sensitive” issues have become common, and resulted in meetings between the Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association and government representatives.

“These are very sensitive issues. The protestors have to take permission from the government in order to identify themselves, and then the journalist should cover (the protests),” Jawad Sargar, an official at the Taliban’s information and culture ministry, told EFE.

Meanwhile AIJA director Hujatullah Mujadidi told EFE that the Islamists had warned them against journalists covering “events or protests” which had not been authorized by the authorities.

“AIJA members do not agree with this rule of the Taliban government, because sometimes an event happens which has to be reported without getting a permission, such as an explosion or a protest,” he said.

Mujadidi insisted that in such a case the journalists could inform the authorities after covering the event, if required.

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.

A report jointly released in December by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the AIJA said that more than 230 media outlets had been forced to shut down since the Islamist group seized power, rendering around 6,400 journalists jobless. EFE


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