Taliban says its fighters have “mistakenly” kidnapped six Afghan journalists working for private and government media organisations in eastern Paktia province.
“Yes, our mujahideens [fighters] have mistakenly kidnapped them,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the armed group, according to a Reuters news agency report on Saturday.
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“Right now mobile services are not working, but they will be released as soon as we establish contact with the local commander,” he said.
Government officials said the reporters, working for radio and TV news companies that broadcast news in Pashto and Dari languages, were abducted while travelling together from neighbouring Paktika province to Paktia to attend a media workshop on Friday.
“We are trying to negotiate their release with the Taliban,” Abdullah Hasrat, a spokesman for Paktia’s governor, said on Saturday.
Afghanistan was the deadliest country in the world to be a journalist in 2018. While the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported 13 deaths, the International Federation of Journalists said 16 journalists were killed last year.
In June, the Taliban issued a threat to Afghan media, saying journalists will be targeted unless news outlets stop broadcasting what they describe as government propaganda against the armed group.
Media organisations were given one week to stop transmitting “anti-Taliban advertisements” by the group’s military commission, a warning that was denounced by the Afghan government and western diplomats.
In 2016, a Taliban suicide bomber rammed his car into a bus carrying employees of Tolo TV, the country’s largest private broadcaster, killing seven journalists.
The Taliban said it killed the employees because Tolo was producing propaganda that supported the occupation of Afghanistan by the United States and its allies in their war against the group.