Journalists freed in Afghanistan

One Al Jazeera cameraman remains in Nato-led force's custody after release of two colleagues.

    Rahmatullah Nekzad, a freelancer working for Al Jazeera in Afghanistan, is still in prison [AJE]  

    Al Jazeera's cameraman and a local reporter who were arrested by the Nato-led force in southern Afghanistan earlier this week, have been freed but a second cameraman remains in their custody, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Afghanistan says.

    The releases on Friday came after pressure mounted on the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, or Isaf, from journalists in Afghanistan and beyond, and from the government of Hamid Karzai.

    "I'm free," Mohamed Nader Jumaa, the Al Jazeera cameraman, said as he left Kandahar airfield - the largest Nato base in southern Afghanistan - on Friday.

    "They said I can go, 'you're free'."

    Jumaa was arrested early on Wednesday in Kandahar by Isaf, which said it had "captured a suspected Taliban media and propaganda facilitator, who participated in filming election attacks".

    Jumaa said he was questioned by US investigators during the three days of his arrest.

    Al Jazeera condemnation

    In a statement issued on Wednesday, Al Jazeera said the arrests were "an attempt by the Isaf leadership to suppress its comprehensive coverage of the Afghan war".

    After being urged to intervene on behalf of the detained reporters, Karzai instructed the information and culture ministry on Thursday to follow up on the detentions and work for the quick release of the jailed journalists.

    The same day, nearly two dozen journalists rallied at the provincial governor's compound in Kandahar to express outrage over the arrests. It is unclear why Rahmatullah Nekzad, the other Al Jazeera cameraman, remains in Isaf captivity.

    Media sources said that Isaf had promised to release Nekzad, who was arrested in Ghazni province on Monday. He was working for Al Jazeera in a freelance capacity.

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    Al Jazeera condemned the arrests on Wednesday of its reporters in Afghanistan

    Hojatullah Mujadadi, the third journalist who had been jailed and then released, is a radio station manager in Kapisa, a province north of Kabul.

    Jumaa's wife said he was picked up from his home by Isaf troops on September 22.

    She said she was woken up when the troops raided their home during the night. The troops then proceeded to arrest Jumaa, removing him from his bedroom, she said.

    The troops also confiscated some of their valuables, she said.

    "The insurgents use propaganda, often delivered through news organisations as a way to influence and in many cases intimidate the Afghan population," Isaf wrote to Al Jazeera.

    "Coalition and Afghan forces have a responsibility to interdict the activities of these insurgent propaganda networks. Individuals detained as a consequence will be investigated and if substantiated will remain in detention awaiting Afghan judicial review."

    Isaf has not issued a formal statement since the release of the Al Jazeera cameraman and the radio reporter.

    Pattern of escalation

    The arrests followed a recent pattern of escalation by Isaf and multinational forces to target Al Jazeera journalists in Afghanistan.

    Recently, Samir Allawi, Al Jazeera's Afghanistan bureau chief, was threatened and pressed to change the editorial line.

    Al Jazeera, however, said it will continue to maintain its coverage on the basis of fair and impartial journalism in line with its Code of Ethics and will not bias its coverage in favour of any party or coalition despite pressures being imposed on it.

    As part of their work, cameramen and crew need to contact all sides of those involved in a particular issue, which in this case includes Isaf forces, the Afghanistan government as well as the Taliban.

    These contacts should not be seen as a criminal offence but rather as a necessary component of the work that journalists undertake, the channel said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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