While the circumstances around the arrest of four journalists in Kandahar by the National Directorate of Security, NDS, the country’s intelligence agency, remain vague, the European Union (EU), on Wednesday, called on the Afghan government to recognize the media as its strategic partner.
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.
“Government, civil society and media must now concentrate on their shared goals: peace, freedom and an open society. Government should see civil society and media as strategic partners – and not adversaries in this endeavor,” said Andreas von Brandt, Ambassador of the European Union in Afghanistan, in a speech at the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB).
“Personally, let me add, I am not sure whether it is a good idea for the government to define for media what is in the national interest,” he said.
A reason given for the detainment of the journalists by the NDS was that they had been aiding in Taliban propaganda, but watchdog groups have called for a transparent and legal process to be followed in the matter.
“If there has been any negative propaganda, then it should be clarified so that the commission can consider it,” said Zahra Musavi, a commissioner of the Access to Information Commission.
Attention in the country has also been focused on the death of performer Nazar Mohammad, known as Khasha. The famous Afghan comedian was killed in Kandahar province by the Taliban.
“The killing of Khasha is a crime against humanity and a violation of human dignity,” said Zabihullah Farhang, the head of media commission of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).
Former President Hamid Karzai described Khasha’s murder as an act against human values and Islamic principles.
However, the Taliban claimed that Khasha was a member of the local police.
“It was a brutal act and against human values,” said a resident in Kabul, Mursal Sediqqi.
“Wherever they go, they leave only killings and destruction,” said Mujtaba Farooq, a resident in Kabul.
Rights groups have called on the Taliban and also the Afghan government to respect human rights.