Afghan reporter detained by NATO-Afghan force on allegation of spreading Taliban propaganda

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Afghan reporter held in Taliban propaganda probe

KABUL, Afghanistan — A joint NATO and Afghan force arrested an Afghan journalist in the eastern region of Ghazni and is investigating suspicions he may have been too close to Taliban militants.

Family members of the journalist, Rahmatullah Naikzad, strongly denied the allegations that he may have spread insurgent propaganda and filmed attacks tied to last weekend’s parliamentary elections. The NATO statement announcing his detention did not detail any of the accusations.

According to colleagues, Naikzad was in regular contact with members of the Taliban and government officials so he could report on insurgent and government activities. He is an ethnic Tajik, a group that tends to be hostile to the Taliban.

Since late 2007, The Associated Press has used video and photographs supplied by Naikzad on a freelance basis. An active local radio journalist, he also has worked for Al-Jazeera Arabic service, according to his brother, Abdullah Naikzad.

The NATO statement did not specify if any news outlet used video or photos provided by Rahmatullah Naikzad during the election. No such images were offered to or used by the AP.

The U.S. has detained local journalists in both Afghanistan and Iraq for questioning or on suspicions of having contact with anti-U.S. elements. In most cases, they eventually have been exonerated or released.

The NATO statement said that intelligence tips led the joint NATO and Afghan force early Monday to a compound in the town of Ghazni, where they apprehended Naikzad.

Three grenades, magazines and a “significant number of AK-47 rounds” were found in the compound, according to NATO. His relatives reported that the joint force detonated explosives at the gate of the compound, used dogs to search the house and left with a two grenades, money and a video disk.

It is very common for Afghans to keep weapons for self-protection.

Naikzad came under scrutiny before, in 2008, when he was a witness to a Taliban execution of two women and was held for two days of questioning by Afghan authorities. He said at the time that the Taliban summoned him to attend the trial of a man and several women accused of various crimes. He said he did not know it would result in an execution.

His pictures included one of the two burqa-clad women sitting next to each other a few minutes before their executions. Another photo showed their bodies the following morning, when Naikzad returned to the scene.

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