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Afghanistan 23 May 2007

NATO force blacklists French journalist at US army’s behest

Reporters Without Borders has asked the US ambassador in Afghanistan, William Wood, to intervene on behalf of Claire Billet, a French journalist working for the independent Hamsa Press agency, who was notified by email on 17 May that she has been blacklisted by NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. Last month, she was arrested by private security guards and interrogated by US soldiers in Kabul.

"Afghan and foreign journalists are already working in extremely difficult conditions without the international forces adding to their problems," the press freedom organisation said. "We call on the US ambassador to intervene with the US-led Coalition and ISAF so that Billet can be accredited again."

A staff correspondent with Hamsa Press, Billet has been reporting in Afghanistan since January. Her work has been used by the European TV stations France 24 and Arte.

Billet was arrested on 7 April while filming civil vehicles close to the ISAF headquarters in the Shashdarak district of Kabul for a report on security in Kabul that she was preparing for France 24. Those who arrested her were Afghan employees of a privately-owned security company contracted by the US army. They handed her over to US soldiers who interrogated her for four hours. Although she had ISAF accreditation, her footage and accreditation card were confiscated.

Hamsa Press founders Emmanuel Razavi and Eric de Lavarène were themselves arrested by the US army in Afghanistan in September 2005 and September 2006. The first time, they were interrogated by CIA officers about their work in the country.

Several journalists have told Reporters Without Borders that it is getting more and more difficult to film on the streets of Kabul because they are regarded with suspicion by the ISAF and Coalition troops and Afghan security company employees. Filming is completely banned in certain sectors of Kabul where special security measures are in force.




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