Reporters Without Borders condemns the interrogation of at least six journalists by the National Department of Security (NDS), including Zaki Daryaie, the editor of the daily Etilaatroz, and Javad Naji, a journalist active on social networks. They were interrogated by NDS officers in the presence of a senior National Security Council representative during the past week.
They were summoned and questioned on suspicion of being the anonymous authors of Kabul Taxi, a Facebook page that has been revealing details of the activities of the country’s leaders since April, including the movements of government ministers and national security advisers. The journalists questioned have objected to the illegality of these interrogations as well as denying any role in Kabul Taxi. After journalists and Afghan journalists’ associations protested against the interrogations, the National Security Council issued a statement on 24 August stressing “the state’s respect for freedom of information and the government’s commitment to the right to information.” Although it did not refer to the interrogation of journalists about Kabul Taxi, the statement condemned the publication of information about government officials and in particular, National Security Council members, which – it said – constituted a “state secret.” Under the media law promulgated in 2013 by then President Hamid Karzai, complaints against media outlets and journalists are supposed to be handled by the Media Verification Commission before being transferred to the judicial authorities, if appropriate. Journalists are supposed to be represented on this commission but as they have not yet been elected, the commission is not yet operational and, in its absence, the information and culture ministry is meant to handle this function. The National Department of Security and the National Security Council clearly do not have the right to directly summon journalists for questioning. “We call on President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah to respect the ‘pact for the protection of media and journalists’ that they undertook to implement,” said Reza Moini, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Afghanistan desk. “They must also ensure that Afghanistan’s security officials respect this pact. The authorities will not be able to combat ‘rumours’ without respecting the law. The law on access to information, which President Ghani signed shortly after taking office in 2014, must be implemented. Unfortunately, this has not been the case until now.” Afghanistan is ranked 122th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.