NATO releases three journalists it had detained in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan — Three journalists picked up for their suspected links to Taliban propaganda networks have been freed after brief detentions that prompted angry reaction from journalism advocates and a call for their release by President Hamid Karzai.
NATO said yesterday that it had released Mohammad Nadir, a television cameraman for Al-Jazeera, and Rahmatullah Naikzad, who worked for both Al-Jazeera and the Associated Press.
“After reviewing the initial intelligence and information received during questioning, the two men were not considered a significant security threat and were released,’’ said Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, communications director for the NATO-led military coalition. “During their brief detention, they were treated humanely and in accordance with international law and US policies.
“No news agency working in Afghanistan was targeted as part of these operations, and no guilt or innocence is presumed by our activities,’’ Smith said. “The operations were conducted with our Afghan partners and based on intelligence gathered over an extended period of time, focusing on insurgent propaganda networks and their affiliates.’’
A third journalist, Hojatullah Mujadadi, a radio station manager in Kapisa Province, who was being held by Afghan intelligence officials, also has been freed, NATO said. The intelligence service would not say when he was released or disclose information about why Mujadadi was apprehended Sept. 18, the same day as parliamentary elections.
Bob Dietz, Asia program coordinator for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said the journalists’ release may have been spurred by Karzai’s decision Thursday to instruct the Ministry of Information and Culture to follow up on the detentions and work for the journalists’ freedom.
He said he did not think NATO was doing itself any favors by detaining journalists in the middle of the night.
“All of these men were recognized as legitimate journalists,’’ Dietz said. “They never should have been detained in the first place.’’
Dietz also said that media coverage of the detentions might have been a factor in their quick release.
Al-Jazeera, which has extensive contacts within insurgent groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Nadir and Naikzad were both innocent. Their contacts with the Taliban should not be viewed as a criminal offense, but rather as a necessary part of their work as journalists.