UNAMA’s Misleading Report on Imprisoned Journalists in Afghanistan and Amu TV’s Silence

Published On: July 20, 2023Categories: Fact Check

UNAMA has released a report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan for the months of May and June, which contains incomplete and misleading information regarding detained journalists.

The report only mentions the name of Morteza Bahboudi, who is said to be held in Taliban custody, while verified information indicates that, at the time of UNAMA’s report, at least three journalists and media personnel were detained by the Taliban.

  1. Morteza Bahboudi – Arrested 7 January 2023
  2. Khalil Bana – Video editor at Amu TV – Arrested12March 2023
  3. Nusrat Mahdi – Cameraperson at Amu TV –  Arrested12 March 2023 

Amu TV has remained silent on this matter, and officials of Amu TV have seemingly attempted to conceal their official relationship with the two employees.

However, one of the Amu TV officials stated unofficially that efforts are being made behind the scenes for the release of Khalil Bana and Nusrat Mahdi, and the matter is still ongoing.

The Amu TV official, who requested not to be named, also mentioned that they have raised this issue with UNAMA. 

How Were Khalil Bana and Nusrat Mahdi Arrested?

Khalil Bana and Nasrat Mahdi were arrested on the 12th of March in the office of the Institute for War and Peace Studies in Kabul. A source told Chalawsaf that on the same day, the Taliban also detained six employees of the Institute for War and Peace Studies.

Sources have mentioned that the Taliban blindfolded these eight individuals and transferred them to the Taliban’s Intelligence Agency’s Detention Facility 40. five employees of the Institute for War and Peace Studies were later released, but the two employees of Amu TV and one of the Institute for War and Peace Studies remain detained as at 21 July in Detention Facility 40.

Khalil Bana was a video editor, and Nusrat Mahdi was a cameraperson. Sending footage and conducting interviews for a documentary about women protesters in Taliban prisons were among their recent assignments for Amu TV.

These two individuals were arrested from the office of the Institute for War and Peace Studies by the Taliban four days after the documentary was released on Amu TV’s YouTube channel.

Amu TV’s Misleading Information Regarding Its Employees

While  Khalil Bana and Nusrat Mahdi’s jobs for Amu TV were clear, two reliable sources, including journalists and media defense organizations, who intended to report and advocate for the detention of these two Amu TV employees, have stated that an Amu TV says both were instead employees of the Institute for War and Peace Studies.

Speaking with Chalawsaf, an Amu TV official confirmed that both men were indeed Amu TV employees who also worked part-time. The same source within Amu TV stated that there is no affiliation between Amu TV and the Institute for War and Peace Studies, and the office of the institute was solely used for Amu TV’s work in Kabul.

Documents reviewed by Chalawsaf indicate an official contract from Amu TV, signed by the Human Resources manager, using the Institute for War and Peace Studies letterhead.

The information suggests that some Amu TV employees had employment contracts with the Institute for War and Peace Studies but worked for Amu TV and received salaries from the television station.

Sources within Amu TV have stated that the reason for this arrangement was the lack of work permits for Amu TV in Kabul.

For the first time, Anisa Shahid, the former head of the news at Amu TV, publicly supported his former colleagues by confirming the arrest of Khalil Bana and Nusrat Mahdi on 2 July through herTwitter account.

Additionally, 8AM . newspaper mentioned the imprisonment of Khalil Bana and Nusrat Mahdi in a report on the 11 July, stating that they were employees of Amu TV.

The Afghanistan Journalists Center also confirmed their imprisonment on the 18 July without mentioning their names and identified them as journalists.

Media Silence

An official from Amu TV, who opposes media coverage of this issue, has stated that media reports and advocacy for Matiullah Wesa – head of pen phat who is in the Taliban prison – have had a counterproductive effect and delayed his release. Consequently, they do not want to broadcast reports about the detainment in case it further delays the release of these two individuals. However, these two Amu TV employees were arrested before Matiullah Wesa’s arrest, and prior to the determination of the effectiveness of the advocacy for Matiullah Wesa, Amu TV did not advocate for their release.

Abdullah Azizi, the father of Khalil Bana, who managed to visit his son in prison after weeks, or as he himself claims, more than two months, reveals that he was informed by the administrative department of Amu TV not to make it a media issue. He has consistently been told that his son will be released soon.

Silence of Etilaatroz Newspaper

Nusrat Mahdi – cameraperson for Amu TV – also has a work history mentioned in the Etilaatroz newspaper. According to the information from his former colleagues, Nusrat was listed among those who were supposed to evacuate from Afghanistan but stayed in the country and began working with Amu TV.

The Etilaatroz newspaper is aware of Nusrat Mahdi’s arrest, and it seems that the reason for not publishing this news is stated as the opposition of Nusrat Mahdi’s family.

Does the Etilaatroz newspaper adhere to the same criterion in publishing all its reports?

The Etilaatroz newspaper has reported on the detention of other journalists, as mentioned in the report from the Afghanistan Journalists Center on 18 July regarding the arrest of Erfanullah Bidar. It also states that currently, three journalists are in Taliban custody.

Consequences of this Silence

The responsibility of Khalil Bana and Nusrat Mahdi was to report news and send footage of events for Amu TV, and they were arrested by the Taliban from the office of the Institute for War and Peace Studies while working for the TV channel.

Their names are not mentioned in the UNAMA report, nor is this event referenced in human rights orgs reports.

An official from Amnesty International has stated that Amu TV has not brought the imprisonment of its employees to the attention of this organization.

The official from the organization mentioned that media coverage of this event could provide grounds for extensive advocacy, but if this issue remains silent, it could have negative consequences and prolong their imprisonment

  • Amu TV broadcast an image of Thomas West, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan, meeting with the Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, mistakenly calling him the Qatari Foreign Minister. [...]

  • شبکه افغانستان اینترنشنال از گفته‌های مولوی عبدالحمید امام اهل سنت ایران که گفته است مدیران بانک مرکزی ایران از مدیران بانک مرکزی افغانستان مشوره بگیرند، خبری ساخته است. این روحانی اهل سنت ایران روز جمعه [...]

  • In the past two weeks, the Taliban have detained at least nine journalists and media personnel. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has stated that the Taliban have arrested these journalists from six [...]