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Taliban Detains Two Journalists in a Week 

The Taliban agents have arrested two local journalists in the capital Kabul and southeastern Ghazni province in the past week, amid an intensified crackdown on media in Afghanistan.

In a statement on Sunday, January 21, the Afghanistan Journalist Center (AFJC) said that Ehsan Akbari, a local reporter for Japan’s Kyodo News Agency, had been detained by Taliban intelligence in Kabul on Wednesday, January 17.

AFJC quoted the journalist’s brother as saying that Ehsan was summoned to the Taliban media and information center in Kabul on Wednesday and was subsequently arrested. “The following morning, members of the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) took Ehsan to the Kyodo news agency office in Kabul’s Share-Naw area, seized his laptop computer and camera, and forced him to call his family and hand over his smartphone to the intelligence officers. They proceeded to retrieve the phone from his residence,” he said.

Mr. Akbari’s employer, Kyodo News, which is based in Japan’s Minato city has not commented yet on the arrest in Kabul. Neither has the Japanese embassy in Afghanistan said anything about the incident. Unlike many Western countries, Japan maintains an active diplomatic presence at the Ambassador level under the Taliban regime.

“The GDI typically adheres to a policy of neither confirming nor denying the arrest or investigation of journalists. In addition, no comments have been made by the Taliban government spokesperson, or the Ministry of Information and Culture, regarding this issue,” AFJC statement stated.

Simultaneously, local sources report that Taliban authorities have detained Khadim Hossain Ahmadi, the official of Radio Jaghori, in southeastern Ghazni province. Ahamdi was detained on Saturday, January 20, and there is currently no information available regarding his well-being and whereabouts.

The source added that Ahmadi engaged in a discussion with Taliban authorities over women’s rights and the recent arrests of women and girls in many provinces of the country for alleged violations of the regime’s dress code. Following their discussion, the journalist was subsequently apprehended by the Taliban vice and virtue agents.

The Taliban have reportedly arrested dozens of young women in Kabul, Daikundi, and other provinces on the charges of violating the regime’s dress codes. According to multiple sources, the new wave of arrests began on direct orders of the group’s ultra-conservative supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada who directed the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice to arrest women without proper covering. The crackdown has caused an uproar among critics and fear among women in Afghanistan.

Upon reclaiming power in August 2021, the Taliban pledged to uphold freedom of the press; however, the regime has, in practice, imposed extensive restrictions on media activities and journalists, frequently resorting to arrests, imprisonment, and instances of torture. AFJC has documented 168 incidents involving violations of journalists’ rights in the country in 2023, with 61 of them being arrests of journalists and media workers.

At present, two additional journalists are still held in Taliban custody. Aminullah Alemi, the manager of Mumtaz Radio station in northern Faryab province, and Sultan Ali Jawadi, the manager of Nasim Radio in Central Daikundi province, were both sentenced to one year in prison by the Taliban local courts last year. Mr. Jawadi was accused of being a foreign agent and spreading moral corruption, allegations often used to silence independent media, critics, and political opposition.