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Afghanistan

Taliban arrests Afghan journalists, weeks after activists go missing

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The Taliban have arrested two Afghan journalists working for a local news channel, rights groups said Tuesday, weeks after two women activists went missing.

Since seizing power in August, the hardline Taliban government have cracked down on dissent by detaining critics and forcefully dispersing protests against their regime.

Several Afghan journalists have also been beaten while covering rallies not approved by authorities.

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The Afghan Media Association, a newly formed journalists’ rights group, said Ariana TV reporters Waris Hasrat and Aslam Hijab were picked up by the Taliban on Monday “and taken to an unknown location.”

Without naming the Taliban, an official at Ariana told AFP the reporters were seized by masked gunmen in front of the channel’s office as they went out for lunch.

He said Taliban officials “have assured us of a comprehensive investigation.”

Rights group Amnesty International demanded on Twitter that the Taliban “unconditionally and immediately release” the pair.

A Taliban spokesman told AFP he had no information on the missing journalists.

A fortnight ago, two women activists went missing after taking part in a demonstration in Kabul calling for women’s rights.

The Taliban have denied knowledge of their whereabouts and say they are investigating.

Last month, the Taliban detained a well-known university lecturer and regime critic but released him days later after a media furor in Afghanistan and abroad.

Despite promising their second time in power would feature a softer brand of governance, the Taliban have slowly introduced restrictions on freedoms, especially for women.

Western countries insist the Taliban must respect women’s rights in order to unlock billions of dollars in assets and foreign aid.

The halting of aid has triggered a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in a country already devastated by decades of war.

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