Kabul, 20 June 2003 (RFE/RL) -- International press freedom groups today urged Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai (pictured) to release two Afghan reporters arrested this week for publishing an article that authorities charge defames Islam. Mir Husayn Mahdawi, editor in chief of the "Aftab" weekly, and deputy editor Ali Riza were arrested in Kabul on 17 June for allegedly violating the press law, which prohibits publication of articles defaming Islam.
In an open letter to Karzai, the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the arrests, and urged Karzai to drop the charges against the journalists. The French-based Reporters Without Borders made a similar appeal.
Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Robert Menard said in a statement that the arrests were "regrettable and worrying for the future of freedom of expression in Afghanistan."
The United Nations and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission have also expressed concern about the arrests.