By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
KABUL, Afghanistan – Television reporter Fahim Kohdamani was released from detention in Kabul on April 19. Human rights organizations call upon the release of pending charges against him, including defamation and insult. He was arrested four weeks ago following complaint from an Iranian official.
Kohdamani worked for the privately owned television station, Emroz. According to the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association, it was alleged that an Emroz broadcast expressed “anti-Islamic sentiments offensive to some Shiite clerics.”
“It is deplorable that an Afghan journalist was detained like a criminal because of a complaint by the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The public prosecutor and the government must resist foreign pressures that lead to the press law being applied arbitrarily. All Kohdamani did was criticize certain religious superstitions.”
Proof of the complaint lies in a letter that Iranian ambassador Fada Hossein Maleki sent to Afghan prosecutor general Mohamad Ehssagh Alko on March 23. Maleki requested “legal proceedings” to be brought against the TV station Kohdamani works for, Emroz. He alleged that Emroz insulted “senior officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and that these “suspect, separatist and insulting actions” should be dealt with under the Afghan criminal code. The letter further threatened that relations between Afghanistan and Iran would suffer if prosecution was not pursued.
After his arrest, Kohdamani was interrogated by the Afghan prosecutor’s office about Ayatollah Khomeiny, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s founder. He was accused of criticizing a book written by Khomeiny. However, Kohdamani explained that he did not criticize Khomeiny, personally, only religious superstitions. He said, “In my programme, I combat the use of religions for personal or political interests.”
He continued, “I was not mistreated but it is intolerable that an innocent person should imprisoned with killers and traffickers . . . I am still awaiting another court summons . . . and unfortunately, I cannot count on the Media Verification Commission as the conservatives on it are in the majority.”
For more information, please see:
IFJ – IFJ Alarmed by the Arrest of Two Journalists in Afghanistan – 25 March 2009
Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty – Kabul TV Station Faces Officials’ Wrath – 11 March 2009
Reporters Without Borders – Emroz Channel Presenter Freed on Bail After Being Held After Complaint by Iran – 21 April 2009