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TV reporter released, "defamation" and "insult" charges still pending

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders welcomes TV reporter and presenter Fahim Kohdamani's release on 19 April 2009 after four weeks of detention in Kabul and calls for the withdrawal of the "defamation" and "insult" charges still pending against him, especially as the organisation has obtained a letter proving that his arrest was the result of a complaint by Iranian officials.

"It is deplorable that an Afghan journalist was detained like a criminal because of a complaint by the Islamic Republic of Iran," Reporters Without Borders said. "The public prosecutor and the government must resist foreign pressures that lead to the press law being applied arbitrarily. All Kohdamani did was criticise certain religious superstitions."

Reporters Without Borders has obtained a copy of a letter that Iranian ambassador Fada Hossein Maleki sent to Afghan prosecutor general Mohamad Ehssagh Alko on 23 March requesting "legal proceedings" against the privately-owned TV station Kohdamani works for, Emroz, for insulting "senior officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran," including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Calling for Emroz to be punished under the Afghan criminal code for "suspect, separatist and insulting actions," the letter warned the prosecutor that a failure to take preventive action would have a "negative influence" on relations between the two countries.

Kohdamani told Reporters Without Borders that during interrogation by members of the prosecutors office he was questioned about his opinion of Ayatollah Khomenei, the Islamic Republic of Iran's founder. He said they accused him of criticising passages of a book by Khomenei in an edition of the Emroz programme Obor Az Khat (Beyond the Line) that was about the book.

Kohdamani explained that he had not criticised Khomenei, just certain religious superstitions. "In my programme, I combat the use of religions for personal or political interests," he said by telephone. He added: "I was not mistreated but it is intolerable that an innocent person should be imprisoned with killers and traffickers (. . .) I am still awaiting another court summons (. . .) And unfortunately, I cannot count on the Media Verification Commission as the conservatives on it are in the majority."

Reporters Without Borders issued a press released condemning Kohdamani's arrest: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=30665

The press freedom organisation condemned Iran's growing influence over certain Afghan news media in a recent report on press freedom in Afghanistan: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=30588

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