Afrique Ameriques Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
 
Afghanistan 24 September 2008

Fixer released after being held arbitrarily and mistreated by US military for 11 months

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the US military’s release of Afghan journalist Jawed Ahmad, who worked as a fixer and interpreter for Canadian broadcaster CTV. After being held for 11 months for having Taliban contacts, he was freed on 22 September as a result of lawsuit brought by US and Afghan human rights groups in the United States.

"The US military must yet again recognise that it abused its authority by detaining an innocent journalist," Reporters Without Borders said. "Despite having no evidence, the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq arrests and mistreats locals employed by the international media whose only crime is to work in war zones.

The press freedom organisation added : "The US government should investigate this case and at the very least compensate Ahmad. We hail the US organisations that took the decisive step of bringing a lawsuit before the US courts."

Known as Jojo Yazemi by his colleagues, Ahmad has returned to the southern city of Kandahar where his family lives. The 22-year-old journalist told Reporters Without Borders : "They obviously accused me of being a journalist. But how can you work as a reporter in southern Afghanistan without contacting the Taliban ? It is normal and it is my right."

Ahmad described his mistreatment. "After torturing me at the start, they tried to destabilise me by saying, for example, that it was my TV station, CTV, which had reported me. Those who interrogated me were American officers, I am sure, and perhaps some Canadians. The Canadian military is 50 per cent responsible for my arrest."

He added : "After this period of detention, I feel even more of a journalist than before. I am very enthusiastic about the idea of going back to work. But above all, I want justice. I want to knock on all the doors, with my lawyers, so that those who detained and tortured me are punished."

Ahmad told several news media he intended to bring a lawsuit against the US military, accusing it of detaining him arbitrarily and torturing him.

The lawsuit filed in the United States by several organisations in June called on US President George W. Bush and defence secretary Robert Gates to charge Ahmad or release him. A US officer told Agence France-Presse that Ahmad was handed over to the Afghan authorities on 22 September "under a reconciliation programme."

The US military originally claimed that Ahmad was an "illegal enemy combatant." Last February, a spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan, said his case was being examined by "an enemy combatant review board."

But, when releasing him, the US-led coalition forces gave him documents stating that he did not represent a "risk for the US forces in Afghanistan."

A US defence department spokesman was questioned by Reporters Without Borders several times about the case and on each occasion refused to provide any information about the reason for Ahmad’s detention.

Ahmad was arrested on 26 October 2007 by US soldiers at an airbase in Kandahar, where the Canadian journalists employing him were located. He was transferred to Bagram airbase, north of Kabul, at the start of the following month. The US military complained of the fact that he had the phone numbers of Taliban leaders in his mobile phone and had interviewed them.




In this country
3 June - Afghanistan
US forces arrest a journalist in Khost
21 April - Afghanistan
Emroz TV presenter freed on bail after being held because of complaint by Iran
24 March - Afghanistan
Authorities arrest two TV presenters in Kabul
10 March - Afghanistan
Journalist working with Canadian media, released five months ago by US military, gunned down in Kandahar
9 March - Afghanistan
Call for presidential pardon after supreme court upholds Perwiz Kambakhsh’s 20-year jail sentence for "blasphemy"

in the annual report
Afghanistan - Annual report 2008
Afghanistan - Annual report 2007
Afghanistan - Annual report 2006

reports
4 May 2009 - Nepal
Mission report : A call to end violence and impunity
2 April 2009 - Pakistan
Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
16 March 2009 - Afghanistan
Report of fact-finding mission : Press freedom in free-fall in run-up to presidential election
archives

Asia archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives

Asia press releases
3 June - North Korea
Pyongyang judges asked to be lenient with two American journalists
3 June - China
“Tank Man” photo displayed outside Chinese embassy in Paris on eve of Tiananmen Square massacre
2 June - China
Blocking of Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Blogger deprives Chinese of Web 2.0
2 June - Sri Lanka
Press freedom activist badly beaten in Colombo, hospitalised
2 June - China
All references to Tiananmen Square massacre closely censored for 20 years