Four journos held after Afghan outing

World | ASSOCIATED PRESS 28 Jul 2021

Four Afghan journalists were arrested by the country's intelligence service after they returned to the city of Kandahar following a reporting trip to a border area recently taken by the Taleban, an Afghan press freedom group said yesterday.

The four had traveled to Spin Boldak to interview Taleban commanders after the insurgents captured a border crossing there with Pakistan. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry says the four are accused of spreading propaganda for the Taleban.

The Afghan media watchdog known as Nai said they returned home to Kandahar and were arrested by the National Directorate for Security. Nai says that the journalists' whereabouts are not known.

Three of the reporters - Bsimullah Wantandost, Qudrat Sultani and Moheb Obaidi - work for the local radio station Mellat Zhagh. The fourth is Sanaullah Siam, a cameraman for the Xinhua News Agency.

Taleban spokesman Mohmmad Naeem, with the insurgents' political office in Qatar, condemned the arrest, saying the four were only doing their jobs, trying to follow events and reveal the facts.

Nai said the arrest was illegal and demanded the journalists' immediate release.

Afghan interior ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai said the four have been accused of spreading enemy propaganda. He insisted the Kabul government is committed to freedom of expression but cautioned it must abide by the constitution and the laws of the country.

"Any kind of propaganda for the benefit of terrorists and the enemy, as well as against the national interest of Afghanistan, will be counted as a crime,'' Stanikzai added.

Reporters work under difficult circumstances in Afghanistan and often face violence, threats and intimidation.

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