Feb. 11 (UPI) — Two United Nations journalists working for the refugee agency UNHCR were detained in Kabul along with an unknown number of Afghan nationals.
“Two journalists on assignment with UNHCR and Afghan nationals working with them have been detained in Kabul. We are doing our utmost to resolve the situation, in coordination with others,” the U.N. organization tweeted Friday.
One of the journalists is Andrew North, a former BBC correspondent.
“Andrew was in Kabul working for the UNHCR & trying to help the people of Afghanistan. We are extremely concerned for his safety & call on anyone with influence to help secure his release,” his wife Natalia Antelava tweeted.
Khalil Hamraz, a Taliban intelligence agency spokesperson, said he didn’t know who had detained the journalists.
Hamraz told CBS News, “So far we couldn’t find them, but we are trying.”
In a Feb. 4 report Reporters Without Borders said there’s been a surge in “threats, summonses for interrogation and arbitrary arrests” of journalists in Afghanistan.
“The Taliban intelligence agency known as the “Istikhbarat” and the Ministry for Promoting Virtue and Suppressing Vice are directly implicated in this harassment, which violates Afghanistan’s press law,” Reporters Without Borders said in its report.
Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian crisis since the Taliban took over the country in the summer after the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Drought, economic stressors, a harsh winter and the COVID-19 pandemic have added to challenges in the country.