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French-Afghan Photojournalist Detained by Taliban

French-Afghan photojournalist Mortaza Behboudi is seen in an undated photo circulating on social media.
French-Afghan photojournalist Mortaza Behboudi is seen in an undated photo circulating on social media.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The sixth paragraph of this article has been updated to include a response from the Taliban spokesperson that came after publication.

Concerns are mounting for an award-winning photojournalist detained in Kabul by the Taliban for nearly a month.

Mortaza Behboudi, who has dual Afghan and French citizenship, arrived in Kabul on January 5 for a reporting assignment. But he was arrested by the Taliban on accusations of spying after he applied for press accreditation, media rights organizations say.

A joint statement by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and journalists at several leading French news outlets on Monday called on the Taliban to “end this senseless situation.”

“We remained silent for 30 days about the detention of Mortaza Behboudi,” the statement read. “Today, we are letting the world know that he was arrested in Kabul one month ago, on 7 January, in the hope that he will be released as quickly as possible and will be able to return to France.”

RSF reported that its assistance helpline received a call from Behboudi’s phone on January 15, but no message was left.

The Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid on Tuesday confirmed to VOA that Behboudi was being detained by the directorate of intelligence. "The detail of the case has not been shared yet," the spokesperson said. "But he is fine and he was treated well.”

Behboudi’s journalism primarily focuses on refugees, including camps in Greece.

He has twice been forced into exile, first as a child when his family moved to Iran to escape Taliban rule, and later in 2015 when he requested asylum in France after being threatened for his journalism.

At that time, Behboudi had been living and working in Afghanistan, where he had returned in 2012 to attend university. His coverage of the opium trade made him a target for the Taliban, according to the Paris Institute for Critical Thinking.

Since seeking asylum in France, Behboudi has established himself as a renowned international journalist. He helped co-found Guiti News in 2018 — a media venture run by French and refugee journalists, and he freelanced for news outlets including Radio France, Liberation, and La Croix.

Behboudi’s contribution to media coverage of Afghanistan, including under Taliban rule, has been recognized with two Bayeux Prizes and the Varenne award for national daily press.

Since taking power in August 2021, the Taliban have briefly detained a handful of foreign journalists, including Foreign Policy magazine columnist Lynne O’Donnell and the American filmmaker Ivor Shearer.

Arrests of local journalists have also increased, with Afghanistan featuring for the first time in 12 years on the annual census of jailed reporters, published by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

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