UN, US raise concern over reports of Afghan journalist arrests

The United Nations and the United States said there were credible reports of journalists from local Afghan media organization Tolo News being detained this week and that attacks on independent media must stop.

A Taliban administration spokesman and a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry did not respond to a request to confirm if they were behind the reported arrests.

"Deepening concern tonight in Afghanistan over credible reports of further arbitrary detentions by the Taliban of Tolonews reporters," the UN's mission to Afghanistan said on Twitter late on Thursday. It urged the release of people taken away by gunmen and said intimidation of independent media should end.

Tolo News said in a tweet that its television presenter Bahram Aman was in the custody of Taliban officials "without any explanation". It added that two other employees had also been detained on Thursday evening but since released.

Ian McCary, charge d'affaires for the US embassy, which is currently operating out of Qatar, said the United States had urged the Taliban to stop detentions and intimidation of media.

"We share (the UN's) deep concern over reports of detention and intimidation of journalists and media staff, which go against the Taliban's stated commitments to freedom of expression," he said on Friday.

A source at Tolo News, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told Reuters the three employees had been taken by several intelligence officers from Tolo's newsroom on Thursday evening around 7:30 p.m. The detained included the head of news, who was outside the office at the time but told to return to face the authorities, the source said.

Several female activists and journalists in Afghanistan have disappeared or been detained in recent months, prompting criticism from governments that have not formally recognized the Taliban administration. These nations say the Taliban need to meet certain conditions, including respect for human rights, to be recognized.

The Taliban has said in some of the cases they are investigating the disappearances and that they have an amnesty for any previous opponents.