Afghan journalist Khaled Qaderi has been tried and sentenced to one year in prison by a Taliban military court for social media posts criticising the Taliban regime. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the arbitrary sentencing and urges the Taliban to cease its persecution of journalists for their independent reportage.
Qaderi, a poet and reporter for independent broadcaster Radio Nawruz, has been in custody since his arrest on March 17 in Herat, and was tried in mid-April. He was notified of the military court’s verdict 10 days from the date of the trial.
Istikhbarat, the Taliban Intelligence Service, accused the journalist of conducting ‘espionage for foreign media’ and criticising the Taliban regime through propaganda posted to social media platform Facebook.
Qaderi told the court, “I realised my errors and I deleted the posts from my Facebook page.” He did not have a defence lawyer and was forced to agree not to appeal the verdict.
This is the first reported case of a journalist tried by the military court since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in August 2021.
Qaderi’s prison sentence is the latest example of human rights violations concerning journalists and restrictions on media freedoms in Afghanistan. In April 2022, a presenter for 1 TV, Moheb Jalili, and a reporter for Rah-e-Farda, Reza Shahir, were arrested and tortured by the Taliban Intelligence Service.
In the lastet South Asia Press Freedom report, the IFJ documented 75 media rights violations, including 12 killings and 30 arrests, in Afghanistan from May 2021 to April 2022. An estimated 1,000 journalists have fled the country since the Taliban takeover, with threats, harsh restrictions, and economic collapse leading to mass closures of media outlets.
A survey conducted by the IFJ’s Afghan affiliate, Afghanistan’s National Journalists Union (ANJU), in February 2022, found that 318 media outlets across 33 provinces have closed since 15 August 2021. On May 7, Hibatullah Akhundzada, Afghanistan’s supreme leader and Taliban chief, announced a strict new dress code for Afghan women, mandating use of the chadori or head-to-toe-burqa.
The IFJ said: “Under Taliban rule, Afghan journalists have continued to face draconian restrictions, threats to freedom and arbitrary arrests. The IFJ condemns the arrest, trial and sentencing of Khaled Qaderi by the Taliban’s military court and calls for his immediate release from prison.”