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Missing Journalists Safe in Kabul


FILE - Afghan journalists attend a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 13, 2022. Two journalists who disappeared separately in Afghanistan were released August 5, media groups say.

Two journalists who went missing while on assignment in Afghanistan were released Friday.

Anas Mallick, the Islamabad bureau chief for the Indian news channel WION, disappeared while on assignment in Kabul on Thursday.

Media reported that he had been on his way to a hotel in Kabul when members of the Taliban detained him.

Separately, an Afghan journalist and the person accompanying him also went missing in the capital on Thursday. Their identities are withheld for security concerns.

Hujatullah Mujadidi, president of the Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association, told VOA that all three people were released on Friday.

"They are back with their families, but they did not say where they had been," said Mujadidi.

In Mallick's case, a short message was posted to the journalist's Twitter account on Friday, saying, "I am back."

The post did not provide details of what had happened or where he had been held.

Pakistan's ambassador in Afghanistan, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, confirmed that Mallick was released, saying on social media that he had spoken briefly with the journalist who is "in Kabul and safe."

The Taliban's Foreign Ministry did not respond to VOA's request for comment about the disappearance and whether the journalist was detained.

But media watchdogs and human rights groups have reported cases where journalists or activists are detained briefly and warned not to speak about their case.

More than 180 cases of violence against journalists have been recorded in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, according to a member of local media watchdog.

"In about 95% of the cases, perpetrators are the Taliban," the watchdog member said. The person requested anonymity for security reasons.

The advocate said they were aware of many cases of journalists being detained, that are not made public.

"The Taliban make them promise not to share their cases with the watchdogs. Journalists and media workers do not want to make their cases public for their safety," the advocate said.

Some cases do become public.

In July, the Taliban took the Australian journalist Lynne O'Donnell to its headquarters.

The international correspondent told VOA that officials dictated an apology to her that she was forced to share on social media before being released.

The Taliban said that O'Donnell was denied permission to work in Afghanistan and that she "lied about her presence in Afghanistan."

O'Donnell denied that she was in the country illegally, saying the Afghan Embassy in London issued her a visa. She said she also applied for a media visa at Kabul International Airport.

Pauline Ades-Mevel, a spokesperson for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), told VOA that the arrest of O'Donnell was "extremely worrying."

She called it a "very serious intimidation" targeting international journalists and scaring others who are willing to go to Afghanistan for coverage.

It is a "recent example of the shrinking of freedom of the press," Ades-Mevel said.

Afghanistan's ranking on the RSF World Press Freedom Index dropped in 2022, coming in at 156 out of 180 countries and regions, where 1 has the best conditions for media.

The Paris-based watchdog said the Taliban return "has had serious repercussions for the respect of press freedom and the safety of journalists."

This story originated in VOA's Pashto Service.

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