Five journalists released after weeks in GDI custody

From left to right: Journalists Haseeb Hassas, Jan Agha Saleh, Faqir Mohammad Faqirzai, Attaullah Omar and Mahboubullah Hakimi released after weeks in GDI custody.

August 31, 2023

Kabul - The Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) welcomes the release of five local journalists who were unjustly detained earlier this month. However, the AFJC strongly urges the Taliban authorities to take immediate action in releasing all remaining journalists and putting an end to the ongoing harassment and targeting of journalists throughout Afghanistan.

According to reliable sources in both Kabul and the provinces, Mahboubullah Hakimi, Attaullah Omar, Faqir Mohammad Faqirzai, Jan Agha Saleh, and Haseeb Hassas were finally released from the Taliban's General Directorate of Intelligence detention center in Kabul this morning, at approximately 10 am.

We have reached out to Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid for comment, but have not received a response as of yet. Sources familiar with the situation have informed us that the released reporters, who had been accused of reporting for exiled media outlets, were released under the condition that they do not work for exiled media. It is important to note that the Taliban has previously enacted measures to prohibit engagement with specific media outlets that broadcast content for Afghanistan from foreign territories.

Among the released journalists are Ataullah Omar, a reporter for ToloNews TV in southern Kandahar province, who was detained on August 13. Freelance reporter Mahboubullah Hakimi, who was detained in Qalat, the capital of southern Zabul province, on August 12, is also among them. Additionally, Faqir Mohammad Faqirzai and Jan Agha Saleh, reporters for Killid Radio in Eastern Nangarhar province, and Haseeb Hassas from the Salam Watandar radio network in Northeastern Kunduz province, were detained on August 10. They were all transferred to the GDI headquarters in Kabul for further questioning and interrogation after their initial detainment in the provinces.

The AFJC welcomes the release of these five journalists, but strongly emphasizes that they should never have been arrested in the first place. We call on the Taliban authorities to immediately and unconditionally release at least five other journalists, including an Afghan-French reporter who has been held since January. Furthermore, we urge the Taliban to put an end to these arbitrary arrests, thus upholding the principles of press freedom and freedom of expression.

The AFJC also highlights the contradiction between these arrests and the country's public media law, which underscores the importance of upholding media freedom in Afghanistan. It is crucial that the work of journalists is not curtailed or threatened by those in authority; instead, they should be provided with support in their professional endeavors.

The AFJC expresses deep concern over the recent trend of increased arrests and threats against journalists, which has resulted in heightened fear and self-censorship in Afghanistan.