IFJ condemns imprisonment of Afghan sports journalist

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on Thursday condemned the arrest and imprisonment of freelance journalist Khairullah Parhar, who was detained early this month.

According to the IFJ, Parhar, who is also the chair of the Nangarhar Sports Journalists Association, was arrested by the Taliban’s General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) on January 9. In a statement, IFJ said the organization “condemns Parhar’s arrest and urges the Taliban to cease its arbitrary detainment of journalists and media workers”.

The IFJ also stated that reports suggest Parhar’s mobile phone was confiscated by GDI members on December 14 at Jalalabad cricket stadium in Nangarhar province and that his arrest appeared to have followed his arrival in Kabul to claim the seized device.

Neither the GDI nor the Taliban’s Nangarhar authorities have explained the justification behind the arrest of the journalist and it is unknown if he was reporting at the time, the IFJ said.

The incident has been condemned by press freedom groups, including the Afghanistan Journalists Centre, which called for Parhar’s immediate release and dismissal of all charges against him.

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, journalists have faced increasing restrictions and persecution as the country’s media industry experiences a prolonged financial collapse. In August 2022, three journalists and media workers from India’s WION News network were detained and assaulted while reporting in Kabul.

In the same month, American journalist Ivor Shearer and his producer, Faizullah Faizkahsh, were harassed and detained for their reporting. In both instances, the media workers’ press cards and mobile phones were confiscated, with no reason given for the arrest.

The IFJ said: “As the Taliban continues to stifle independent and critical media and introduce severe restrictions on working journalists, the number of incidents of arrest, harassment, intimidation, and violence continue to rise. The Taliban’s General Directorate of Intelligence must be held accountable for this crackdown on the press. The IFJ condemns the arbitrary detention of Khairullah Parhar and calls on the Taliban to ensure his immediate release.”