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Security officials at prison threaten journalists with guns; weekly forced to relocate following death threats

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

Journalists Under Constant Threat in Afghanistan

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned about increasing disrespect and violence by local authorities and militant groups towards journalists in Afghanistan after reports of police intimidation, death threats and abduction.

According to the Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA), an IFJ associate, five journalists from various media were threatened with guns by security officials outside the Balkh prison as the Deputy Minister for Commerce and Industries, Zia-u-din Zia, visited the site on February 18.

Journalists, including Fahim Humdard from Noor TV and Sahak from Shamshad, told the AIJA that the security officials detained them, threatened them and continued to abuse them verbally once they gained entrance to the prison.

All five journalists presented their press cards and were travelling in a clearly marked press vehicle.

Meanwhile, it is reported that the Kabul Shahan weekly was forced to relocate its offices after the newspaper's owner, Sidiqullah Sahil, received a letter stamped and signed by the Taliban Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan on December 15, 2007. The letter accused Sahil of being a spy for international and anti-Taliban authorities, naming him an enemy of Islam and threatening him with death.

Grave concerns are also held for the well-being and safety of Javid Ahmad, a journalist working for Canadian Television (CTV) who is being held at Bagram Air Base. He was detained by US military forces in October 2007 without charge.

Ahmad was arrested at Kandahar airport for reportedly having contacts with local Taliban leaders and possessing a video containing Taliban materials.

"Respect for human rights, the rights of journalists and the right to media freedom are essential for the success of Afghanistan as a democratic state," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"This type of fear mongering and intimidation is a serious impingement of journalists' rights and it must not continue."

The IFJ calls on local authorities and members of all political and militant groups in Afghanistan to offer greater respect to journalists in their professional duty to provide fair and balanced reporting of the nation's events. The IFJ demands that US military forces provide adequate evidence of the reasons for Ahmad's detention or release him immediately.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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