Spy agency NDS detains four journalists on propaganda charges after they returned from contested area of Spin Boldak in southern Kandahar province, where authorities accuse Taliban of killing civilians – charges insurgents deny.
Afghanistan's spy agency has arrested four journalists for visiting a Taliban-held border town and accused them of spreading enemy "propaganda", officials said.
The four Afghans were detained in Kandahar after returning on Monday from Spin Boldak, the border crossing with Pakistan seized by the Taliban earlier this month.
Local media said on Tuesday the journalists were investigating government reports that the Taliban had massacred civilians in the town — charges the insurgents deny.
"Any kind of propaganda in favour of the terrorists and against Afghanistan's national interest is a crime," Interior Ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai said in a statement.
"The security forces are investigating the case."
A spokesperson for the Taliban, Mohammad Naeem, said the four journalists had travelled to Spin Boldak "to investigate allegations that people were killed there".
"Their only crime was they wanted to expose the facts," he said.
Journalists union condemns arrests
Afghan media watchdog Nai said the journalists were arrested on the orders of the National Directorate of Security, the country's spy agency.
"It is still unclear what has happened," Nai said, adding three of them worked for the local Mellat Zhagh radio network.
"It is now more than 24 hours since their detention ... their families are deeply concerned."
The Afghanistan Journalists Safety Committee called on the government to free them immediately.
"No extra-judiciary detention is acceptable," it said.
"We are concerned about the detention of four journalists in Kandahar by National Security Directorate since yesterday," Amnesty International said on Twitter.
Dangerous country for journalists
Afghanistan has long been one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.
In May, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked it 122nd out of 180 countries on its latest World Press Freedom Index.
Several journalists have been killed in targeted attacks since the Taliban and Washington signed a deal in February 2020 that paved the way for the withdrawal of foreign forces.
The arrest of the four Afghan journalists comes two weeks after Danish Siddiqui, a photographer working for Reuters news agency was killed covering the fighting in Spin Boldak.