The Afghan secret service, NDS, notorious for its pursuit and detention of Afghan journalists has arrested highly respected documentary filmmaker, Mohammad Nasir Fayyaz. He was allegedly struck when he responded to a summons to appear at the NDS offices.
Said Ansari, spokesperson for Afghanistan’s National Security Directorate.
"Harsh comments were made on the air about two ministers and the president but the government is making a mistake when it arrests the host of an outspoken current affairs program," Reporters Without Borders said. "In a democracy, government ministers are not supposed to take justice into their own hands. It is up to the courts to decide whether someone is guilty of a crime."
The press freedom organization added: "This latest incident is indicative of the growing tension between the press and the government, especially the ministry of information and culture."
The head of Ariana TV told Agence France-Presse that he got an SMS message from Fayyaz soon after he left for the DNS saying: "I have been arrested." He was allegedly hit at the time of his arrest. There has been no news of him since then.
Fayyaz was critical of the government on the air the previous day, describing trade minister Mohammad Amin Farhang and energy minister Mohammad Ismail Khan as corrupt. Police officers rushed to the TV station and stopped his program half way through.
Sources close to Ariana TV said that Fayyaz’s programs are generally closely scrutinized by station management and that he is frequently forced to make cuts so that government officials will not be angered and retaliate against the independent network.
However rumors that Ehsan Bayat, president of Ariana TV, is considering running for President of Afghanistan in the 2009 elections may have something to do with this particular action against the independent network which is broadcast throughout Afghanistan and Central Asia, and accessible in Europe and North America via free satellite and Internet.
In minutes from a cabinet meeting on the subject it was written, "The cabinet envisages that individuals like him and all those in the media who make baseless allegations will be prosecuted at the request of the minister of information and culture (...) The minister of information and culture provided a report on the financial situation of the privately-owned TV stations. It turns out that there are irregularities in their accounts."
Water and Energy Minister Ismail Khan recently accused Mr Fayyaz of corruptly asking him to ensure power was provided to his residence 24 hours a day - a request which Mr Khan said was refused.
Mr Fayyaz has denied the minister’s allegations.
Afghan intelligence officials have refused to comment on his case.
Fayyaz has been threatened in the past by parliamentarians, including former warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf.
In 2007, Fayez was forced to flee to India after an interview with a government minister during which he had asked uncomfortable questions. The minister threatened him with physical violence. Mr. Fayez returned to his post at Ariana TV after apologizing privately to the minister, and the intervention of the Ariana network’s administration.