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Journalist released following 13-day detention over article that reportedly angered president; another freed on bail, goes into hiding after being questioned on critical online articles

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

CLARIFICATION: IFJ welcomes release of Afghan journalist
Release clarifies comments from Kamran Mir Hazar

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has welcomed the release of journalist Mohammad Asif Nang, but renewed its call for the government to provide a legally justified explanation for why Nang was detained.

Nang, the chief editor of Peace Jirga magazine, was held in detention by security officials for 13 days after reportedly publishing an article that angered the Afghan President.

According to the Afghan Independent Journalist Association (AIJA), Nang publicly accepted his detention at a press conference on July 15.

Nang, who is also the spokesman for the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, stated that as a public servant he believed the government had the right to conduct their investigation.

He also publicly apologised to President Hamid Karzai for the article he published which allegedly induced his arrest, explaining that it was a mistake which was accidentally ignored during the editing process.

"While it is a great relief that Nang has been released unharmed, there are still a number of unanswered questions hanging over the Afghan authorities," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"From the very onset of Nang's detention, the IFJ has held his arrest to be baseless and a violation of his human rights. Reporting a story which is critical of the government of the day is insufficient justification to hold a person captive for 13 days," Park said.

Nang's release comes almost a week after another Afghan journalist Kamran Mir Hazar was freed on bail on July 8.

Mir Hazar, who works for Salam Watandar radio and is the chief editor for website http://www.kabulpress.org , was taken in for questioning by officials from the Afghan National Security Directorate on July 4. It is alleged that his arrest was linked to a number of articles posted on his website that were also very critical of the Afghan government.

Mir Hazar has spoken of the mental pressure he endured during his four day detention, and there are reports that members of Afghan secret police or other unknown people are looking for him. Mir Hazar and his wife have reportedly been forced into hiding at the Internews office for more than a week and there are grave concerns for Mir Hazar's safety if he leaves the compound.

Rahimullah Samander, president of the AIJA has expressed concern for the safety of Afghan journalists in detention, particularly the welfare of another journalist Tawab Niazi who is currently serving a one-year jail sentence for allegedly having links with Taliban insurgents.

The IFJ, the organisation representing over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries, urges President Karzai and his government to make public the investigations that led to the detentions of Nang and Mir Hazar.

"For a free and democratic Afghanistan, the public has the right to know the actions taken by their representative government," Park said.

"The Afghan government must bring reassurance back to their media community. Nang apologising to President Karzai for his arrest could create a dangerous precedent, encouraging Afghan journalists to self-censor their independent and critical work for fear of suffering a similar fate to his," Park said.

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