The arrest of four journalists in Kandahar by the National Directorate of Security, NDS, the country’s intelligence agency, has sparked reactions from watchdog organizations who say the four must be released and the reason for their detention should be made clear.
Three of the journalists--Bismillah Watandost, Qudrat Sultani and Mohib Obaidi--work for Radi Millat Ghag, and Sanaullah Siyam is a local cameraman in Kandahar. They were arrested by the NDS when they returned from Spin Boldak district on Monday where they went to investigate claims of civilian deaths at the hands of the Taliban.
“Whenever a reporter makes a mistake, the media violations commission should decide and approve that he has made a mistake and then he can be arrested,” said Samiullah Ghairatmal, head of the Nai office in Kandahar. Nai is an organization supporting open media in Afghanistan.
“Journalists are from among the people and are working for the people. I hope that the government remains committed to freedom of the press and releases the journalists as soon as possible,” said Shams Omar, a reporter in Kandahar.
Kandahar journalists said their colleagues should be released.
“Journalists are the eyes and ears of the people. They should be released,” said Farid Alizai, a local journalist in Kandahar.
“No hurdle should be made in the way of journalists’ activities,” said Mohammad Yar, a journalist in Kandahar.
Amnesty International and other watchdog organizations also criticized the arrest and said it is in contravention of the law.
“They should share with the people the reasons that these journalists were arrested to determine whether there is a legal basis or not,” said Lal Gul Lal, head of the Human Rights Organization of Afghanistan.
“If the arrest of journalists continues, we will witness restrictions on the freedom of press by the government which will be in contravention of its commitments to the international community,” said Mujib Khalwatgar, CEO of Nai.
The Ministry of Interior Affairs said interrogations of the four journalists are underway.
“There is evidence against the four journalists who have been arrested on charges of supporting enemy propaganda in Kandahar. The security agencies are conducting their assessment based on the law,” the Interior Ministry’s spokesman Mirwais Stanekzai said.