UN asked to seek release of Franco-Afghan reporter held by Taliban for 50 days
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has formally referred the case of Mortaza Behboudi, a Franco-Afghan journalist unduly detained in Kabul, to two United Nations special rapporteurs and has asked the UN to seek his immediate release. Arrested by the Taliban authorities on 7 January, he will complete his 50th day in detention on 26 February.
In a complaint sent on 24 February to Irene Khan, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to Richard Bennett, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, RSF asks them to do everything possible to get the Taliban authorities to free Mortaza Behboudi without delay.
“The journalist Mortaza Behboudi has been detained for the past 50 days and that’s 50 days too many. We ask the United Nations to support our request to the Taliban authorities for Mortaza Behboudi’s release. He is a journalist who is respected by all of his media colleagues. He must be freed at once.
The Afghan authorities did not acknowledge holding Behboudi until 7 February thought not providing details about his situation. It came one day after an appeal for his immediate release, that was published jointly by RSF and 15 French news media and production companies for which he has worked.
A professional journalist with French and Afghan dual nationality, Behboudi went to Afghanistan on 5 January for the purpose of reporting, and was arrested by the Taliban authorities 48 hours after his arrival as he was about to collect his press accreditation. He has been held for more than a month in a Kabul prison and is said to have been accused of spying.
Behboudi’s arrest is one more example of an alarming escalation in the Taliban government’s persecution of journalists. Tolo News TV journalist Mohammad Yaar Majroh was released on 19 February after being held for six days but at least two other Afghan journalists continue to be held, in addition to Mortaza Behboudi. They are Qotratullah Tarar, arrested on 11 November, and Khairullah Parhar, arrested on 9 January. RSF calls for their immediate release, as well as Behboudi’s.