French reporting becomes extremely difficult in Kabul

May. 29, 2007

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is highly alarmed by the blacklisting of a French journalist by NATOs International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, almost seven weeks after she was interrogated for four hours by United States soldiers.

According to local reports, Claire Billet was arrested by private security guards and interrogated by US soldiers in April for filming civil vehicles close to ISAF headquarters in the Shashdarak district of Kabul as part of a report on security in Kabul she was preparing for the France 24 television station.

Although Billet did possess ISAF accreditation, her footage and accreditation card were reportedly confiscated during the ordeal and on May 17, Billet reportedly received word she had been blacklisted.

This blacklisting is further evidence that media in Afghanistan face not only safety and security challenges, but are also up against blatant censorship and control from authorities, declared Christopher Warren, the president of the IFJ, the organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries.

Billet had been working for the independent news outlet in Afghanistan since January and her reports have been used by France 24 and another European television station, Arte.

Hamsa Press has had problems with the US army before, as its founders, Emmanuel Razavi and Eric de Lavarne have been arrested twice since 2005 and interrogated once by the CIA about their work in the country.

According to two IFJ affiliates, the Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) and the Committee to Protect Afghan Journalists (CPAJ), Afghan and international security forces are reportedly making filming on the streets of Kabul become more and more difficult for journalists, with a complete ban in certain areas of the city for security reasons.

Reporters doing their job need not be held under suspicion by any government, Warren said.

Nations around the world have a right to know what is happening in Afghanistan, especially if they have citizens residing there.

The IFJ urges the United States ambassador to Afghanistan, William Wood, to intervene on Billets behalf and make sure her accreditation is returned and that the interrogation of journalists in the country is stopped.

Additionally, the IFJ along with the AIJA and CPAJ are calling for security forces in Afghanistan to relieve bans on filming so that journalists can properly do their work and allow a more truthful representation of the events occurring in the country.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries

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