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Afghanistan September 27, 2010
H.E. Hamid Karzai
Gul Khana Palace
Islamic State of Afghanistan
Fax: (011.93.2) 252.634
We at the Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) are writing with great concern about the arrests by NATO coalition forces of three Afghanistan journalists who have been charged with collaborating with the Taliban.
We refer to the detention last Wednesday of Mohammed Naderi, a staff correspondent for Al Jazeera in Kandahar, the arrest on Monday of Rahmatullah Nekzad, a freelance correspondent for Al Jazeera and The Associated Press, and the arrest on Saturday of radio station manager, Hojatullah Mujadadi, in Kapisa province north of Kabul.
According to news reports, all three are charged with assisting the Taliban with propaganda activities. These non-specific charges raise serious questions about what constitutes legitimate reporting of both sides of the war and what constitutes “collaboration” through propaganda.
Initial reports said the U.S. and coalition forces described the three journalists as “facilitators.” Later, Major Sunset Belinsky of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said the arrests were made to “interdict the activities of these insurgent propaganda networks”.
We at the OPC Freedom of the Press Committee believe three criteria must be established before arrests like these are made. Firstly, the military forces involved should be able to provide specific charges and detail for their accusations. Secondly, it should be accepted that journalists who travel with and write about the Taliban first-hand have the right to do so. Thirdly, it should be established that a coalition that accepts U.S. funds and military assistance should be willing to adopt the goals and values of an open press policy.
It is especially disturbing that after two journalists — Mr. Naderi and Mr. Nekzad — were arrested in post-midnight raids on their homes that coalition forces initially made no mention of the arrests. As their editors have protested, these raids were totally egregious; the journalists would have complied with a simple request to come in for questioning.
Unless NATO forces can provide specific charges to justify the detentions, we urged you to immediately release these journalists. Afghan media organizations and human rights groups are equally alarmed about these raids. Instead of quelling what the military sees as “propaganda,” these actions do the opposite — generate ready-made propaganda for the Taliban to use against Western values.
Our position in no way seeks to impede coalition forces from their mission of defeating the Taliban. But that mission includes support for the democratic values that the Taliban seek to destroy. We want to insure that the Afghan people see U.S.-led forces upholding free speech even in a difficult war zone.
Robert J. Dowling
Freedom of the Press Committee
H.E. Barack Obama
United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Fax: (202) 456.2461
H.E. Said Tayeb Jawad
Ambassador of Afghanistan to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Islamic State of Afghanistan
Kalamora Road, NW
Fax: (202) 483.6488
Ambassador Zahir Tanin
Permanent Mission of the Islamic State of Afghanistan to the United Nations
360 Lexington Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10017
Fax: (212) 972.1216
H. E. Karl W. Eikenberry
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan
Embassy of the United States of America
The Great Mastoid Road, Kabul
Fax: (011.93.2) 230.1364
Ms. Jean MacKenzie
Afghanistan Programme Director
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Under Secretary of State for Democracy
and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520