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Two kidnapped journalists released by captors

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

Two Afghan Journalists Released by Taliban Captors

Two Afghan journalists kidnapped by the Taliban were released unharmed on November 29, according to the Afghan Independent Journalists' Association (AIJA), an IFJ affiliate.

Dawa Khan Menapal, of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Aziz Popal, who worked for a television station in Kandahar,were abducted in Ghazni province, south of Kabul, on November 26 as they drove toward Kandahar on one of the country's main highways.

The two journalists were released after interventions by the AIJA and the Committee to Protect Afghan Journalists (CPAJ).

According to a Taliban spokesman, the men's status as journalists was a key determinant in the armed group's decision to release them.

Menapal and Popal were not mistreated but they were driven to new locations about twice a day, the AIJA reported.

Their abduction follows other kidnappings of Canadian and Dutch journalists near Kabul in recent weeks.

AIJA president Rahimullah Samandar said journalism in Afghanistan had become increasingly dangerous because of pressure both from armed militants and government officials.

A case in point is that of Salih Mohammad Salih, who resigned from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty earlier this year after receiving repeated threats from a Taliban commander named Rakmatullah that he would be attacked by a suicide bomber.

"The IFJ calls on Afghanistan's authorities to seek to evolve a compact among all sides of the conflict to protect journalists engaged in the pursuit of their work," the IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"Aside from the threat of abduction and physical harm from insurgent groups, journalists also face harassment and intimidation by those holding elected office in Afghanistan.

"We urge the leadership in Afghanistan to establish a firm norm against this manner of impeding journalists in the pursuit of their work."

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

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