Reporters Without Borders/Reporters sans frontières
16 June 2009
/EIN News/ AFGHANISTAN
Call for release of two Al Jazeera producers held by intelligence agency
Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of two Afghan
journalists employed by the Qatar-based TV news station Al Jazeera,
who have been held by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), an
Afghan intelligence agency, in Kabul since 14 June 2009.
“Why are the intelligence services holding these two journalists
incommunicado?” Reporters Without Borders asked. “If it is to punish
them for an embarrassing report about the security situation, it is
unacceptable. If it is to check their documents, it is totally
disproportionate. We urge the intelligence services to release them
without delay and stop using methods that are contrary to the rule of
Qais Azimy, a producer with Al Jazeera’s English channel, was
detained when he went to NDS headquarters in response to a summons.
Hameedullah Shah, a producer with Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language
channel, was arrested by NDS agents at the station’s bureau in Kabul.
Their colleagues have received no word of them since then.
“No one, except the information ministry, wants to give us any
information about our colleagues,” an Al Jazeera journalist in Kabul
told Reporters Without Borders.
In a press release, Al Jazeera said it was very concerned about the
fact that it had been unable to get in touch with the two journalists
since their arrest by the Afghan intelligence services on 14 June.
The station believes that the NDS was angered by a recent Al Jazeera
report containing an interview by Azimy with a Taliban commander in
the northern province of Kunduz. The station says the interview was
balanced by the comments of a German officer with the International
Security Assistance Force.
Hamed Elmi, President Hamid Karzai’s deputy spokesman, assured
Reporters Without Borders that the president had nothing to do with
their arrests. “We are concerned by this situation. We contacted the
information ministry this morning to obtain information about the
charges against the two journalists.”
The arrests could also be linked to the theft of Shah’s press card by
the Taliban. While in the Kunar region two weeks ago, Shah was
detained for a day by Taliban fighters, who took his money and his
papers, including the press accreditation that was issued by the
Afghan president’s office.
Shah was subsequently detained for several hours by intelligence
officials before leaving the region. After he and his crew returned
to Kabul, Al Jazeera wrote to the president’s office to report the
theft of the press card.
An experienced journalist, Azimy has been working for Al Jazeera’s
English-language channel for three years. Shah has been working for
its Arabic-language channel for eight months. Both have done a lot of
reporting in the field.