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Journalists detained at scene of alleged civilian deaths

(IFJ/IFEX) - February 24, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the release of three reporters who were briefly detained by US-led NATO forces in Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan.

According to information received from IFJ affiliate the Afghan Independent Journalists' Association (AIJA), Syed Abdullah Nezami of the Al Jazeera Arabic news channel and Sadullah Sahil and Zabihullah of the Afghan TV News Service, were detained on February 20, 2011 in a remote part of the province where a NATO air strike had reportedly killed up to 50 civilians over the weekend.

The reporters were investigating the event when they were taken in by NATO forces for allegedly not carrying proper credentials. However, the AIJA has established that all three had their identity cards at the time they were apprehended. They were released two days later.

One of the reporters revealed to the AIJA that he has grounds to suspect those who arrested him were actively seeking to suppress the truth about the alleged death of civilians in the air strike.

"The IFJ joins the AIJA in strongly deploring the effort to stop reporters from doing their job and ascertaining the truth behind contested official claims," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"Civilian deaths have been a sensitive issue in Afghanistan and we believe that a free media that is able to report accurately and without fear will serve the cause of peace and reconciliation."

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