CPJ demands immediate release of detained Kyodo News Journalist in Afghanistan

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urged the Taliban authorities on Monday to immediately and unconditionally release Afghan journalist Ehsan Akbari, and to cease harassing and detaining members of the press for their work.

Ehsan Akbari, the assistant bureau chief of the Japanese media outlet Kyodo News, was summoned to the Government Media Information Center (GMIC) in Kabul on January 17.

He was then detained by officials from the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) and taken to an undisclosed location, according to news reports and a Kyodo News representative who spoke to CPJ under anonymity.

The day after Akbari’s detention, Taliban intelligence officials compelled him to instruct his family to hand over his mobile phone to agents at their residence. Additionally, Taliban intelligence members raided the Kyodo office in Kabul, confiscating security and video recording cameras, laptops, a satellite phone, and documents.

“Taliban authorities must immediately release Kyodo News journalist Ehsan Akbari and stop detaining Afghan journalists as a form of retaliation for their work,” stated Beh Lih Yi, CPJ Asia Program Coordinator. “The actions against Akbari and the Kyodo office in Kabul are excessive, underscoring a systematic crackdown on media in Afghanistan by the GDI. The Taliban must honor its commitment to allow journalists to report freely.”

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed Akbari’s detention and the seizure of his work equipment, explaining to CPJ via messaging app that Akbari was detained for allegedly being in contact with anti-Taliban groups and transmitting information to them.

Since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, the repression of Afghan media has intensified, with several journalists detained last year for working with exiled media outlets.