KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Four Afghan journalists were arrested by the country’s intelligence service after they returned to the city of Kandahar following a reporting trip to a border area recently taken by the Taliban, an Afghan press freedom group said Tuesday.
The four had travelled to Spin Boldak to interview Taliban commanders after the insurgents captured a border crossing there with Pakistan. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry says the four are accused of spreading propaganda for the Taliban.
The Afghan media watchdog known as Nai said they returned home to Kandahar on Monday and were arrested by the National Directorate for Security. Nai says that the journalists’ whereabouts on Tuesday was not known.
Three of the reporters — Bsimullah Wantandost, Qudrat Sultani and Moheb Obaidi — work for the local radio station Mellat Zhagh. The fourth is Sanaullah Siam, a cameraman for the Xinhua News Agency, the group said.
Taliban spokesman Mohmmad Naeem, with the insurgents’ political office in Qatar, condemned the arrest by the “Afghan administration,” saying the four were only doing their job, trying to “follow the events and try to reveal the facts.”
Nai said the arrest was illegal and demanded the journalists’ immediate release.
Later Tuesday, Afghan interior ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai said the four have been accused of spreading enemy propaganda. He insisted the Kabul government is committed to freedom of expression but cautioned it must abide by the constitution and the laws of the country.
“Any kind of propaganda for the benefit of terrorists and the enemy as well as against the national interest of Afghanistan, will be counted as a crime,” Stanikzai added.
Reporters work under extremely difficult circumstances in Afghanistan, and often face violence, threats and intimidation, preventing them from carrying out their work properly.
The war-torn nation has over 2,000 officially registered media outlets. Violence against journalists was up 26% in 2020, compared to 2019, according to the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee, which recorded 132 threats and acts of violence against journalists and media workers last year.