Four journalists have been arrested on propaganda charges in Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Tuesday.
They were arrested in the city of Kandahar after traveling to the disputed border town of Spin Boldak to interview commanders of the Taliban, which has been clashing with Afghan security forces, according to the Afghan media watchdog known as Nai.
The watchdog said the location of the journalists on Tuesday was unknown.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said the journalists have been charged with spreading propaganda for the Taliban after ignoring a warning from the government’s intelligence agency not to enter the area.
“The government of Afghanistan respects and is extremely committed to freedom of expression, but any propaganda in favor of the terrorist and the enemy, as well as against the interests of the country, is a crime," interior ministry spokesperson Mirwais Estanikzai said.
Taliban spokesman Mohmmad Naeem denounced the arrests and argued the journalists were simply trying to "follow the events and try to reveal the facts."
The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee called on the government to release the journalists “as soon as possible and to refer the case to the Media Complaints Commission to ascertain whether any violation has taken place or not.”
International rights group Amnesty International also called for release of the journalists, tweeting it is “concerned” about their detention.
The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee identified the journalists as Bismillah Watandoost, Qudrat Soltani, and Moheb Obaidi, employees of the local radio station Mellat Zhagh, and Sanaullah Siam, a cameraman of the Xinhua News Agency.