Al Jazeera demands NATO free arrested cameramen

The TV network claims NATO arrested cameramen to censor its war coverage.

Kabul: Al Jazeera television has demanded that NATO immediately release two of its journalists it says were arrested by coalition forces in Afghanistan this week in an effort to censor its war coverage.

The Doha-based television network said in a statement that two cameramen had been arrested as part of "an attempt by the ISAF leadership to suppress its comprehensive coverage of the Afghan war".

NATO`s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had said in a statement earlier this week that it had "captured a suspected Taliban media and propaganda facilitator, who participated in filming election attacks".

Al Jazeera named the arrested journalists as Mohammad Nader, detained in the southern province of Kandahar on Wednesday, and Rahmatullah Nekzed, who was arrested on Monday in Ghazni province, south of Kabul.

Both provinces, especially Kandahar, are hotspots in the increasingly violent Taliban insurgency against the Kabul government and international forces.

Kandahar Governor Toryalai Wesa confirmed Nader`s arrest, saying: "We are doing our best to win his release as soon as possible."

Al Jazeera said ISAF had written to the network about the arrests, obliquely accusing the two men of working with the insurgency to spread Taliban propaganda and intimidate ordinary Afghans.

"The insurgents use propaganda, often delivered through news organisations as a way to influence and in many cases intimidate the Afghan population," it quoted ISAF as saying.

"Coalition and Afghan forces have a responsibility to interdict the activities of these insurgent propaganda networks," Jazeera quoted ISAF as saying.

Al Jazeera has "strongly rejected the claims and insisted the two were innocent," the statement said, calling for their immediate release.

It accused ISAF, which has almost 150,000 NATO and US troops in Afghanistan fighting the insurgency, of targeting Al Jazeera and threatening staff in Afghanistan "to change the editorial line".

The network would "continue to maintain its coverage on the basis of fair and impartial journalism in line with its Code of Ethics and will not bias its coverage in favour of any party or coalition despite pressures being imposed on it," it said.

Bureau Report