#FreeMortaza - Support committee created for jailed French-Afghan journalist Mortaza Behboudi
Colleagues and friends of Mortaza Behboudi – a journalist with French and Afghan dual nationality held in Afghanistan since 7 January – announce the creation of a support committee coordinated by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The committee, which includes representatives of the 15 French media outlets and production companies for which he has worked, met for the first time on 9 February to determine its first steps.
The committee’s creation and first meeting come just days after the publication of an appeal by RSF and 15 media outlets calling for Behboudi’s release. The purpose of the committee is to decide on a strategy and coordinate actions designed to promote the release of this journalist, who has been held for the past month.
The support committee includes several dozen media editors and prominent journalists, such as Erik Berg (franceInfo TV director), Dorothée Olliéric (senior reporter, France 2), Edwy Plenel (Mediapart president), Eric Valmir (information secretary-general , Radio France). It also includes representatives of such associations as the Home of Journalists, the Albert Londres Prize, the Human Rights League and France Land of Asylum, as well as representatives of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University, the Paris Institute for Critical Thinking and the Paris City Hall. Behboudi’s wife, Aleksandra Mojtovaja, and several of his friends, including the artists Patricia Allio, Bernardo Montet, Léonie Pernet and Kubra Khademi, are also involved. In all, 200 persons participated in the support committee’s launch, while many others sent messages.
“The support committee’s creation will enable us to establish a strategy and carry out all the actions needed to obtain the release of our colleague, Mortaza Behboudi, as soon as possible, if the Taliban don’t free him in the next few days. With the goodwill and commitment of his colleagues and friends, we will soon take new initiatives, including the launch of a petition and a major campaign to mobilise the public.
“Mortaza has been held in a Kabul prison for a month now,” said Rachida El Azzouzi, a Mediapart journalist who is a member of the committee. “All of the journalists and editors in the support committee testify to Mortaza’s professionalism throughout the many years he has worked with them. He is a well-known journalist who is respected and appreciated by his colleagues. He has no place being in prison. We will do everything we can to obtain his release as soon as possible.”
Behboudi began his career as a photojournalist at the age of 16 in Afghanistan, the country of his birth. He fled to France when he was 21 because he had been threatened, and was given a refuge in the Maison des Journalistes (Journalists’ Home) in Paris. Along with other Afghan journalists in self-imposed exile, he created a news website called Guiti News, and he soon began freelancing for French and French-language media outlets including France Télévisions, TV5 Monde, Arte, Radio France, Mediapart, Libération and La Croix.
He co-authored a series of reports called “Across Afghanistan under the Taliban” that was published by Mediapart and was awarded the Bayeux Prize for War Correspondents and the French National Daily Varenne Prize in 2022. And he contributed to a report entitled “Young Afghan girls sold in order to survive” that was broadcast by France 2 and was also awarded the Bayeux Prize in 2022.
Behboudi returned to Afghanistan on 5 January for the purpose of reporting and was arrested 48 hours later as he was about to collect his press accreditation. After being held in a Kabul prison for 11 days for not having accreditation, he was reportedly transferred to another prison in Kabul and is now said to be accused of spying. His family has had no news of him since a brief phone call between him and his wife on 26 January. It was supervised by prison guards, who brought it to an end after one minute.