Taliban arrests journalists for reporting on TV show censorship

Kabul in Afghanistan -- Three members of TOLO TV's staff were arrested by Taliban intelligence. This is one of the largest TV stations in Afghanistan , according to a channel executive.

Taliban arrests journalists for reporting on TV show censorship

Khpalwak Sapai (head of TOLONews), was one of the three people arrested.

Sapai and Nafay Khaleeq (the station's legal advisor) were released within hours. However, station presenter Bahram Aman was still being held Friday, Sapai informed The Associated Press.

Agence France-Presse describes him as "one the top news presenters in Afghanistan."

Aman's relative, who spoke under anonymity, said to AFP that "Our entire family is concerned." They had threatened him previously."

Shortly after 8 p.m. on Thursday, intelligence officers from the Taliban's General Directorate of Intelligence came to arrest the three. Sapai stated that the station was still looking for Aman's freedom.

Moby Group, the media company behind TOLO TV, stated that the detentions were for publishing Tolo news regarding banning foreign drama series. This decision was made by the Taliban Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

Media company owned by Afghanistan has interests in South, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

International outcry was raised over the arrests, which included more demands by the U.N. Security Council (CPJ), for the country's leaders to cease harassing local journalists and to allow free expression to be allowed through intimidation, threats, arrests, and arrests.

According to the statement by the CPJ, the U.S.-based CPJ, the Taliban must immediately free journalist Bahram Aman (a news presenter at TOLOnews) and stop intimidating members of Afghanistan's press corps.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, urged the same.

It stated on Twitter that UNAMA expressed deep concern over the detention of journalists and the increasing restrictions placed on media in Afghanistan. Time for the Taliban not to gagging and banning. It is time for constructive dialogue with Afghan media.

The AP reached out to the Taliban's intelligence agency and information ministry for clarification.

CPJ stated that the Taliban's intelligence services denied the arrests.

The Taliban have been sending erratic signals since their return to power in August. They are sometimes welcoming international journalists, while Afghan media is often attacked.

The number of Afghan journalists fell dramatically in the chaos of the U.S. withdrawal last august , when thousands fled Afghanistan or were evacuated from their homes by foreign governments and organisations. Many of those who stayed and those who didn't have to deal with the Taliban rulers are afraid for tomorrow.

Because Sapai was briefly detained, he said that he made an effort to train and recruit Afghan women journalists.

Reporters Without Borders (December) and the Afghan Independent Journalist Association (December 2007) found that 231 of 543 media outlets had shut down, while over 6,400 journalists were fired after the Taliban tookover. According to the report, outlets were closed due to lack of funds or journalists leaving the country.

AFP points out that the Taliban had initially banned TV stations from broadcasting soap operas or dramas without Islamic themes when they regained control. AFP reports that the ban was not strictly enforced. However, TOLOnews reported that they now seem to be more strict in enforcing it.