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AP, March 25, 2009

Afghan TV presenters arrested: media watchdog

Journalists work under pressure from the government and clerics

Kabul: The Afghan government had arrested two TV presenters, one for a programme apparently offensive to Muslim clerics and another for interviewing a Taliban spokesman, a media watchdog said Tuesday.

Ajmal Alamzai of Ariana TV, who was released just before midnight Monday.
Ajmal Alamzai of Ariana TV, who was released just before midnight Monday.

Reporters Without Borders said it was "disturbed" by Monday's arrests of Fahim Kohdamani of Emroz television, who is still being held, and Ajmal Alamzai of Ariana TV, who was released just before midnight Monday.

It said Alamzai was picked bythe intelligence agency in connection with a report consisting mainly of interviews with former members of the Taliban regime, and in which he made a telephone call to a current Taliban spokesman.

The programme discussed recent suggestions by US President Barack Obama for a dialogue with "moderate Taliban" in a bid to end the extremist insurgency crippling Afghanistan.

In a statement, Reporters Without Borders quoted the head of Ariana TV, Ehsanollah Aryanzai, saying the show did not endanger Afghanistan's security.

"The arrest was illegal because the journalist was virtually kidnapped on the street and no one was told," he added.

Kohdamani was separately accused by a Kabul prosecutor of broadcasting "anti-Islamic" and "vulgar" programmes, the media rights groups said.

This appeared to be linked to a letter of complaint sent to President Hamid Karzai by Muslim clerics, it said.

"We call for Kohdamani?s immediate and unconditional release," the media rights group said.

"The Afghan government has again failed to respect press freedom, arbitrarily arresting journalists who have done nothing wrong."

Afghanistan's media sector has boomed since the overthrow of the extremist Islamic Taliban regime in a US-led invasion in late 2001, although many of the outlets are partisan.

Journalists work under pressure from the government and clerics, with several arrested for "un-Islamic" work, as well as from insurgents and other powerbrokers

Category: HR Violations - Views: 7625