Al Jazeera journalists released after being "treated humanely" by NATO-led ISAF in Afghanistan.

Posted: 26 Sep 2010   Print   Send a link
AFP, 24 Sept 2010: "Two Afghan journalists working for Al Jazeera television were released Friday from a NATO-run prison in Afghanistan, days after being arrested over alleged links to the Taliban. ... 'The insurgents use propaganda, often delivered through news organisations, as a way to influence and in many cases intimidate the Afghan population,' [Al Jazeera] quoted ISAF as saying in a letter. Al Jazeera rejected the allegations, saying the men were 'innocent'. The network's Afghanistan correspondent Sue Turton said that most of Al Jazeera's local reporters feared arrest."

International Security Assistance Force press release, 24 Sept 2010: "'After reviewing the initial intelligence and information received during questioning, the two men were not considered a significant security threat and were released,' said Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, Director of Communication, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). 'During their brief detention they were treated humanely and in accordance with international law and U.S. policies.' ... 'The operations were conducted with our Afghan partners and based on intelligence gathered over an extended period of time, focusing on insurgent propaganda networks and their affiliates.' A discussion earlier today between Rear Admiral Smith and Samer Allawi, Al Jazeera Kabul Bureau Chief, focused on the basis for detention of the two journalists, and Al Jazeera's acceptance of responsibility for their conduct. The Doha-based news organization pledged to uphold the highest journalistic standards for their reporting in Afghanistan. ISAF will also work closely with the Government of Afghanistan and its Ministry of Information and Culture to ensure that security operations are conducted to prevent Taliban influence from being spread through propaganda, and that journalists are treated with respect as they endure the challenge of reporting in an often dangerous and complex environment."

The National (Abu Dhabi), 24 Sept 2010, David Lepeska: "Press freedom advocates challenged Isaf’s justifications for the detentions. 'What exactly does it mean to be a ‘propagandist’ or ‘facilitating information networks’?' asked Anthony Mills of the International Press Institute in Geneva. 'Being a journalist covering that side of the story should not be considered a crime.'" See also IPI, 24 Sept 2010.

Committee to Protect Journalists, 24 Sept 2010: "'We are pleased that ISAF released Rahmatullah Nekzad and Mohammed Nader quickly, although they should not have been detained in the first place' said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator."

Reporters sans frontières, 24 Sept 2010: “'We are extremely relieved that these three arrests, which we had described as a serious mistake, have been resolved so quickly and we hail President Karzai’s personal involvement,' Reporters Without Borders said."

National Press Club press release, 24 Sept 2010: "The National Press Club President Alan Bjerga called upon the NATO command to more fully explain the reason for the detentions... . 'Journalists who take unpleasant images in a war zone are not responsible for how belligerents on either side of a conflict may use the images. These cameramen should not be incarcerated for, in effect, doing their jobs.'"

RFE/RL, 24 Sept 2010, Heather Maher: "RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan spoke to Al-Jazeera cameraman Nadir after his release. 'I was questioned at least five times,' he said. 'Overall, they treated me well. They didn't behave badly during the interrogation. They gave me food. And I was escorted to washroom. Their interpreters were Afghans and Pashtuns who understood everything and translated fairly.' He said he told the soldiers, 'I am not in hiding in Kandahar. Almost all journalists know me very well. I am not an outsider. They could give me a call and I would come on foot. There was no need for Americans to rush and put my home under siege or terrify my family in that midnight.'"

AP, 25 Sept 2010, Deb Riechmann: "The interrogators asked [Rahmatullah Naikzad], 'Who is your contact with the Taliban?' He said he told them 'Everybody is talking with the Taliban. I'm not calling the Taliban. The Taliban are calling the media.' 'The American investigators told me "If you are talking with the Taliban on the basis of doing a story, no problem. But the reports that have come to us is that you are giving information to the Taliban,"' Naikzad said. ... He said one member of the coalition told him as he was released: 'We heard a lot of bad things about you, but please forgive us.'", 24 Sept 2010: "The arrests followed a recent pattern of escalation by Isaf and multinational forces to target Al Jazeera journalists in Afghanistan. ... Al Jazeera, however, said it will continue to maintain its coverage on the basis of fair and impartial journalism in line with its Code of Ethics and will not bias its coverage in favour of any party or coalition despite pressure being imposed on it. As part of their work, cameramen and crew need to contact all sides of those involved in a particular issue, which in this case includes Isaf forces, the Afghanistan government as well as the Taliban. These contacts should not be seen as a criminal offence but rather as a necessary component of the work that journalists undertake, the channel said." See previous post about same subject.