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ABDUCTED REPORTER KILLED, SAYS TALIBAN

An Afghan journalist and translator was killed on 8 April, a month after he was kidnapped, a spokesperson for the Taliban said.

Journalist and translator Ajmal Naqshbandi was abducted, with Italian reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo and their driver Syed Agha, on 5 March by the Taliban in Helmand province.

While Agha was beheaded by his captors a few days after the men were seized, Mastrogiacomo was freed on 19 March, in exchange for five Taliban prisoners in a deal struck by Italian and Afghan authorities. The government's refusal to arrange a second prisoner swap led to the beheading of Naqshbandi, said the Taliban.

The murder of Naqshbandi highlights the risks of bargaining with the Taliban, warns the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). "If deals are done which free foreigners while locals are butchered, it puts a price on the head of any media person from abroad working in Afghanistan," said IFJ.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) said that Naqshbandi was a victim of double standards because the campaign for his release was "not strong enough."

The Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) with other Afghan media associations and unions passed a resolution calling for all media outlets to boycott Taliban reports over the next week, and to grieve Naqshbandi's passing by observing two minutes of silence on 10 April or publishing a blank, black page. The resolution also questions the "silence of the international community" and the government's release of foreigners, but not Afghan nationals.

Visit these links:
- RSF alert: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=21217
- IFJ alert: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=4817&Language=EN
(10 April 2007)

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