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Afghanistan October 26, 2005
H.E. Hamid Karzai
Office of the President
Islamic State of Afghanistan
Fax: (011.93.2) 26340
The members of the Overseas Press Club of America, about 600 women and men with extensive experience as journalists covering news throughout the world, salute you and the citizens of Afghanistan on the success of the recently concluded elections. You have established the foundations of democracy in Afghanistan .
However, in the run-up to the elections and since then, a number of serious incidents occurred which endanger a basic freedom in your country – freedom of the press. A number of journalists were attacked and/or imprisoned because authorities appeared to disagree with articles or opinions of the journalists. We respectfully request that your Government investigate these serious matters.
• Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, editor of the monthly Haqooq-i-Zan women’s rights magazine, was arrested in Kabul early in October after local religious leaders accused him of publishing articles that they viewed as “insulting to Islam.” A representative of the Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA), met with Nasab in Kabul ‘s central prison, and the editor denied publishing anti-Islamic material, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. It appears to us that Nasab has been jailed because his views differ from those of some local Islamic clerics. We consider this to be a serious violation of freedom of expression.
• Earlier, unknown assailants seized a journalist, a cameraman and a government employee in Nuristan province. The journalist is Mohammed Tagi Siraj, chief editor of the weekly, Bamyan. He was seized after working on a documentary video about cultural matters for the Women’s Affairs Ministry. Also abducted were his cameraman , Baseer Seerat and a ministry employee, Shah Jan.
The three were accompanying the candidate for Parliament, Hawa Alam Nuristani who, as you know, was wounded while campaigning for the September 18 elections in Nuristan . In addition to doing the documentary, Siraj had been reporting for the weekly, Bamyan, during his trip to Nuristan .
• Early in September, Afghan journalist, Ezatullah Zawab, editor of the bi-monthly, Meena , was found unconscious in the Samarkhei area of Nangarhar province and was then taken by police to the governor’s house. As far as we know, Zawab is still being held, even though after being seized and beaten, he telephoned the president of AIJA to report what had happened. Zawab, who also is a regional correspondent for Pajhwok Afghan News Agency, believes he was victimized because of publishing articles that displeased religious leaders and the provincial director of the Culture, Information and Tourism Ministry. About 30 journalists in Jalalabad demonstrated near the provincial offices, protesting Zawab’s illegal detension.
Mr. President, as you can tell from the cases cited above (selected from a longer list of recent press freedom violations in Afghanistan ), in spite of the excellent strides your country has made toward human freedoms, much remains to be done. Of course, freedom of the press – freedom for journalists to do their work – is the issue of primary concern to our members. We earnestly ask you to use the full powers of your Presidential office to protect this fundamental essential of a true democracy.
Freedom of the Press Committee
Said Tayeb Jawad
Ambassador of Afghanistan to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Islamic State of Afghanistan
2341 Wyoming Avenue, N.W.
Washington , DC 20008
Fax: (202) 328-3516
Ambassador Ravan A. G. Farhardi
Permanent Mission of the Islamic State of Afghanistan
to the United Nations
360 Lexington Avenue
New York , New York 10017
Fax: (212) 972-1216
Ronald E. Neumann
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan
Embassy of the United States of America
Great Masoud Road
Fax: (011.93.2) 230-1364
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