Photo: AFJC and NAI

Taliban detains four local journalists in several provinces of Afghanistan amid media crackdown

The Taliban intelligence arrested four local journalists in Nangarhar, Paktia, and Kunduz provinces on Thursday, according to organizations supporting media and journalists in Afghanistan.

Faqir Mohammad Faqirzai and Janagha Saleh, reporters for Kilid radio station in Nangarhar province, Habib Sarab, reporter for Ariana News in Paktia province, and Haseeb Hassas, reporter for Radio Salam Watandar in Kunduz province, were all arrested by Taliban intelligence during the past 24 hours.

In a newsletter on Thursday, the Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) condemned the detention of Faqir Mohammad Faqirzai and Janagha Saleh and called for their immediate and unconditional release.

The reason for the arrest of these two local journalists has not yet been determined, and the local Taliban officials in Nangarhar have not yet commented.

In a statement on Friday, NAI-Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan confirmed that Habib Sarab and Haseeb Hassas, two journalists, had been detained by Taliban security forces without clear reason.

NAI believes that such arbitrary detentions of journalists can be seen as a form of pressure on the media and that if such actions continue, journalists will be working in fear and a climate of intimidation, which will have a serious impact on freedom of expression and access to information in Afghanistan.

The organization has called on the Taliban to release the detained journalists as soon as possible and has appealed to the group to investigate cases involving media personnel thoroughly through the Media Violation Commission.

According to reports, five local journalists have been arrested by the Taliban in Ghazni, Nangarhar, Khost, and Kunduz provinces during the past week. On Sunday, Wahdatullah Abdali, a reporter for the government-run Bakhtar News Agency, was arrested in Ghazni province.

The Taliban has conducted a continuous campaign of crackdowns on media outlets and journalists since returning to power in August 2021. AFJC has documented at least 319 cases of violence against journalists and media, including 160 arrests.

Afghanistan-born French journalist Mortaza Behboudi has been in Taliban detention since January 7, 2023. Despite international calls, the group has refused to provide details about his whereabouts or indicate whether he will be freed.

Almost half of Afghanistan’s once vibrant media have been either forced to cease operations or move their offices abroad as a result of the Taliban’s strict restrictions and continued pressure over the past two years.