New York, January 15 (CPJ/OurVoice) — Taliban authorities should immediately and unconditionally release journalists Faisal Modaris, Idris Rahimi, and Milad Azizi, and cease detaining members of the press for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
On January 6, armed Taliban authorities detained the three journalists, all of whom work at the Kabul Lovers YouTube-based broadcaster, along with Azizi’s brother Rashid Azizi, while they were at a restaurant in the Shari Naw area of Kabul’s District Four, according to three people with knowledge of the situation who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of retaliation by the Taliban, as well as posts on Twitter by local journalists and activists.
Modaris works as a presenter for Kabul Lovers, Rahimi as a camera operator, and Milad Azizi owns the outlet, according to those sources. The broadcaster covers current affairs and daily life in Kabul and has continued since the Taliban takeover in August; it has about 240,000 followers on its YouTube channel.
Authorities later released Rashid Noori, but Modaris, Rahimi, and Azizi remain in custody according to those people who spoke to CPJ, adding that the journalists are being held by the counterterrorism body of the Directorate General of Intelligence, the Taliban’s intelligence agency, and have not been able to see their families or lawyers.
“The detention of Afghan journalists Faisal Modaris, Idris Rahimi, and Milad Azizi indicates a worrisome and reprehensible escalation of Taliban attacks on the independent media,” said CPJ Asia Coordinator Steven Butler. “Taliban authorities should unconditionally release the three journalists and stop imprisoning members of the press in retaliation for their work.”
The people who spoke to CPJ said that a Taliban member called Modaris’ family confirming that the three had been detained. The family member feared that the journalists could be tortured in detention, those people said.
The three recently covered protests by residents of Panjshir province after Taliban militias killed a civilian there, and featured protesters harshly criticizing the Taliban; the report was viewed more than 100,000 times, and it was cited by international news outlets including the BBC. The people who spoke to CPJ said they believed that reporting, because it contained criticism of the Taliban and was so widely shared, was likely the reason for the journalists’ arrests.
Ahmadullah Wasiq, a Taliban deputy spokesperson in Afghanistan, did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app. CPJ was unable to find contact information for the General Directorate of Intelligence.
Separately, on January 9, the Taliban released journalist Khalil Fitri after holding him in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif since December 13, according to news reports.