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Afghan reporter arrested for talking to the Taliban

An Afghan reporter was arrested, apparently because of his contacts with Taliban representatives. For local reporters, covering the war is a minefield.

By Staff writer / September 21, 2010

This 2009 photo taken by Afghan reporter Rahmatullah Naikzad shows Taliban militants stand beside burnt trucks on the Ghazni- Kandahar highway in Ghazni, west of Kabul.

Rahmatullah Naikzad/AP/File

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The Associated Press reports that Afghanistan reporter Rahmatullah Naikzad, a freelancer who contributes video to the AP and also works for Al Jazeera's Arab language service, was arrested by a NATO forces in the troubled province of Ghazni yesterday.

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The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the umbrella for the US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan, provided few details beyond a brief statement that the journalist had been detained because of suspected ties to the Taliban.

The AP reports that Mr. Naikzad, an ethnic Tajik, cultivated ties with Taliban and other militant leaders as part of his job, and that his family strenuously objected to any suggestion he might have been providing assistance to the Taliban. The vast majority of Taliban members are ethnic Pashtuns, and most Tajiks are sworn enemies of the Taliban (Tajik hero and anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated by an Al Qaeda agent posing as a journalist two days before the 9/11 attacks on the US).

If recent experience is anything to go by, it could be months or years before the allegations against him are dealt with and he's either cleared and released, or evidence of wrongdoing is forthcoming. Reuters photographer Ibrahim Jassam, for example, was arrested by US and Iraqi forces on allegations he was a "security threat" and detained without charge for 17 months, until he was released this February.

While foreign reporters take risks covering the Iraq and Afghan wars (and other conflicts – today is the 11th anniversary of former Monitor contributor Sander Thoenes's murder at the hands of Indonesian soldiers in East Timor), and a number have paid with their lives, the conflicts have proven far more deadly for the local reporters who do much of the legwork in the war zone. This paper's Iraqi translator Allan Enwiya was murdered during the kidnapping of reporter Jill Carroll in 2006, and a security guard for the Monitor was later murdered on his day off, though the motive for that murder was unclear.

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