At least 13 journalists and media workers are in Taliban prisons, says AFJC

The Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) has said that at least 13 journalists and media workers are currently imprisoned in Taliban prisons.

The latest journalist to be arrested is Mohammad Hossein Velayati, an Iranian photojournalist who was arrested at Kabul International Airport on August 19 while attempting to board a flight to Iran. The Taliban authorities have not yet explained the reason for his arrest.

In a statement on Tuesday, the AFJC expressed deep concern about the detention of the Iranian photojournalist and urged the Taliban authorities to provide immediate updates to his family and colleagues and to ensure his well-being.

AFJC stated: “We, therefore, call on the Taliban authorities to not only release Mohammad Hossein Velayati immediately and unconditionally but also to cease the use of force against journalists. It is essential that they put an end to these arbitrary arrests and uphold the principles of press freedom and freedom of expression.”

The detention of Velayati is the latest in a disturbing crackdown on media freedom in Afghanistan. According to AFJC, the Taliban’s General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) has detained at least 11 journalists and media workers in various provinces in the past two weeks, nine of whom are still in the Taliban’s custody. Four other journalists were detained in the months leading up to this, bringing the total number of detained journalists to 13.

The AFJC further stated that these arbitrary arrests, often on claims of working for exiled media outlets, highlight a concerning pattern of targeting and silencing journalists.

The reason for the arrest of all these journalists is not clear, and Taliban officials have not said anything in this regard.

Among them include Afghanistan-born French journalist, Mortaza Behboudi, who was detained in January 2023, two days after arriving in Kabul. Despite mounting international condemnation and protests, Behboudi remains in Taliban custody and in incommunicado.