ISLAMABAD: A court in Afghanistan has sentenced a Pakistani TV journalist to four years in prison on charges of travelling to the neighbouring country without documents, Pakistani diplomatic sources said on Sunday.
Faizullah Khan, a reporter for Karachi-based ARY News, was detained by Afghan authorities in eastern Nangarhar province in April this year. Some reports had earlier suggested Faizullah was on assignment to interview Taliban leaders as part of his professional duties.
“A panel of three-judges in eastern Nangarhar province has convicted Faizullah Khan,” a Pakistani embassy official said, while speaking from Kabul via phone.
Faizullah was also accused of spying; however, the bench dropped espionage charges and jailed him for illegal entry to Afghanistan, his Afghan lawyer says.
An Afghan source in Jalalabad, who is privy to the court’s proceedings, said the judges also mentioned Faizullah Khan’s attempt of interviewing the Taliban in the verdict.
An appeal against the conviction will be filed in an Afghan High Court, a source said.
Pakistani embassy in Kabul and the country’s consulate in Jalalabad had been actively involved to help the journalist in the legal battle, the embassy spokesman, Akhtar Munir said, talking to The Express Tribune from Kabul.
He said Ambassador Abrar Hussain had held a series of meetings with key ministers and senior officials to secure the release of the journalist. “The embassy will continue efforts to help the Pakistani journalist while using all legal options,” the spokesman said.
Sources said South Asian Free Media Association (Safma) Afghan chapter had been contacted in Kabul to seek its help in the release of the Pakistani journalist. However Safma’s in-charge in Kabul had called for a letter from Safma office-bearers in Pakistan.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urged the Afghanistan and Pakistan governments to act urgently for safe return of the journalist.
International media groups say both Pakistan and Afghanistan are dangerous regions for journalists to operate with poor safety and security situations and impunity in attacks on journalists.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2014.