CPJ: U.S. military frees Afghan journalist from Bagram

Committee to Protect Journalists

330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465‑1004 Fax: (212) 465‑9568 Web: www.cpj.org E-Mail: media@cpj.org

U.S. military frees Afghan journalist from Bagram

New York, September 22, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the U.S. military’s release of imprisoned journalist Jawed Ahmad from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Sunday, 11 months after he was first detained. But CPJ calls again on the U.S. military to end its practice of holding journalists without charge on an open-ended basis.

Ahmad, 22, was never charged with a crime, and military officials have never explained the basis for his prolonged detention. Ahmad, who is known by his nickname Jojo and also uses the surname Yazemi, does not know why he was freed, according to an interview with the Canadian Globe and Mail. Ahmad worked most recently as a field producer for the Canadian broadcaster CTV and had several other freelance clients in the past.

Ahmad said he was detained at a NATO airfield near the southern city of Kandahar where he worked, after being invited there by someone who said he was a U.S. public affairs officer, according to the Globe and Mail. He was later transferred to the U.S.-operated air base at Bagram, he said. He told the newspaper he was beaten, that two of his ribs were broken, and that he was deprived of sleep.

“We are relieved that Jawed Ahmad has been freed and we wish him the best with his return to work,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia Program Coordinator. “But he has lost almost a year of his life being held without charge and says he was brutally treated by his captors. His case adds to the U.S. military’s appalling record of detaining working journalists in conflict zones, without a modicum of due process, based on allegations which are shrouded in secrecy and have apparently proved to be unfounded.”

The U.S. military detained Ahmad on October 25, 2007. CPJ publicized his case after being alerted by Carlotta Gall, The New York Times reporter based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, who had worked with him. A Pentagon spokesman told CPJ in February that Ahmad had been classified as an “unlawful enemy combatant” but did not provide information about the allegations or evidence against him.

A statement issued today by Capt. Christian Patterson, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said Ahmad had been released because he “was no longer considered a threat.” The statement offered no explanation for the 11-month detention. Ahmad told the Globe and Mail his U.S. interrogators were suspicious of his reportorial contacts with local Taliban. 

CTV News President Robert Hurst issued a statement today to CPJ. “It is startling that U.S. military authorities released Jojo Yazemi on Sunday morning without any explanation about why he was apprehended in the first place and then declared an enemy combatant,” Hurst said. “CTV News is also concerned about his health after he recounted his treatment while in U.S. custody. Our priority now is to get Jojo Yazemi back to Kandahar and reunited with his family.”

CPJ research shows that at least one other journalist remains in U.S. military custody. Freelance photographer Ibrahim Jassam, who was working for Reuters in Iraq, was detained September 2 by U.S. and Iraqi forces; he has not been charged. The U.S. has held dozens of journalists in Iraq, at least 10 of them for prolonged periods, according to CPJ research. Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was released in April after a two-year detention on unsubstantiated allegations of collaborating with local insurgents.  

On May 1, Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese cameraman for Al-Jazeera, was released from the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after six years in detention. Al-Haj, also designated an “enemy combatant,” was never charged with a crime.

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.

Bob Dietz  bdietz@cpj.org

Asia Program Coordinator

Madeline Earp mearp@cpj.org

Asia Program Researcher

Committee to Protect Journalists

330 Seventh Ave, 11th floor

New York, NY 10001

+1 212 465 1004

www.cpj.org

Stop Kurram Agency killings: HRCP

Press release, July 21, 2008

 

Lahore: The government must immediately put an end to bloodshed in Kurram Agency and restore its writ in a region held hostage by terrorists engaged in sectarian violence, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said in a press statement on Monday.

 

The Commission said: “The people of Kurram Agency have been suffering horrific sectarian violence at the hands of home-bred and foreign terrorists since April 2007. For over a year, the main road connecting the agency to the rest of Pakistan has been occupied by militants who close it as and when they please. Ambulances have been attacked, innocent people slaughtered and dismembered bodies in sacks found dumped by the roadside. Heavy weapons are used to target peaceful civilian neighbourhoods. Communication and water supply systems have been destroyed, and the local economy ruined.

 

The situation has grown from bad to worse. There is little evidence that government’s efforts to restore law and order have worked so far.

 

The agency has been virtually cut off from the rest of the country, prices of essentials have hit the sky, development activities have suspended and closure of courts and government offices are causing serious problems for the people living in the agency.

 

The government needs to act in a manner to restore confidence of this area’s people in rule of law and the government’s ability to ensure rights for the people. The government needs to ensure that Kurram residents are duly protected.

 

Asma Jahangir, Chairperson

HRCP Annual Report 2007

The HRCP Annual Report 2007 is now online. Please visit the HRCP website or click here to be directed to the report. You can also purchase the hardcopy from the main office. Please send in your purchase enquiries to hrcp@hrcp-web.org.

 

Statistics for the year 2007 have also been uploaded. Please click on the following links to see stats for:

The introduction and main highlights are on the link and HRCP stands and activities for the entire year are also included in the chapters for downloads.

 

    HRCP State of Human Rights 2007 – Released!

    The HRCP State of Human Rights in 2007 has been released.  ar 2007

    It will be available for download on the website shortly. UPDATE: The report is now online on the website. Please click here to be directed to the report.

     

    The report covers the following topics:

    1.      Rule of law

    1.1.   Laws and law-making

    1.2.   Administration of justice

    2.      Enforcement of law

    2.1.   Law and order

    2.2.   Jails, prisoners and ‘disappearances’

    3.      Fundamental freedoms

    3.1.   Freedom of movement

    3.2.   Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

    3.3.   Freedom of expression

    3.4.   Freedom of assembly

    3.5.   Freedom of association

    4.      Democratic development

    4.1.   Political participation

    5.      Rights of the disadvantaged

    5.1.   Women

    5.2.   Children

    5.3.   Labour

    6.      Social and economic rights

    6.1.   Education

    6.2.   Health

    6.3.   Housing

    6.4.   Environment

    6.5.   Refugees

    7.      Appendices

    7.1.   HRCP activities

    7.2.   HRCP stands

    Human rights have suffered in Pakistan

    Press Release, March 13

    Lahore: The situation of human rights and of human rights defenders in Pakistan has seriously deteriorated over the past year, according to the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

    FIDH said this in a communiqué following a recent fact-finding mission in Pakistan in collaboration with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (Feb 24-Mar 3) to assess the situation of human rights and of human rights defenders in the country.

    FIDH said that among the most flagrant human rights violations that the mission documented were “enforced “disappearances”, generalised attacks against civilian population during popular gatherings, or during military operations, repression of movements seeking recognition of their identity, in particular in Balochistan, deterioration of the condition of women, discrimination against religious minorities, restrictions to the freedom of the media, persecution, summary and arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders”.

    FIDH faulted US interference in Pakistan for the deterioration. “Many of those attacks are committed under the guise of the fight against terrorism, with the active support of the United States. The interference of this foreign power in Pakistan contributes in a significant way to the deterioration of human rights in the region.”

    The mission called for an immediate release of the Supreme Court Chief Justice and his family; reinstatement of deposed judges; respect for the physical and psychological integrity of all Pakistani human rights defenders; and respect for the independence of the judiciary.

    The mission called upon the political parties emerging as significant players after the February 18 elections to work for the rule of law in Pakistan, through human rights protection, non-discrimination, notably based on gender or the religion and freedom of expression.

    Iqbal Haider

    Secretary-General