More questions raised about U.S. commandos' alleged beating of Afghan journalist
May 14, 2014 | By John M. Donnelly | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pentagon and a New York Times reporter gave conflicting accounts this week of whether U.S. special forces beat and threatened to kill an Afghan journalist in late February.
The Times reported on March 1 that U.S. special forces had raided a radio station south of Kabul, Radio Paighame Milli, allegedly destroying equipment, detaining three employees, cutting off the station's broadcasts and, later, beating and threatening the station owner, Qazi Nasir Mudassir, while he was in detention. Ironically, the Times reported, the station was known for airing U.S.-sponsored advertisements supporting the U.S.-led coalition of military forces in Afghanistan.
The story prompted National Press Club President Myron Belkind to immediately write Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel asking for an explanation.
The Pentagon's response arrived this week. The May 7 letter from the vice director of the Joint Staff, Army Maj. Gen. Frederick S. Rudesheim, states that U.S. commandos, along with Afghan forces, found rocket propelled grenades, AK-47s and magazines at the radio station. It says troops detained three employees after they had produced what Rudesheim said were fraudulent documents alleging authority to have the weapons. And, he added, there were no indications of mistreatment or damaged property.
Provided a copy of Rudesheim's letter, the New York Times Kabul bureau chief, Rod Nordland, one of the reporters of the original story, raised questions about the Pentagon account. Nordland said Mudassir said after he was released that he had needed the weapons to defend himself against insurgents, who were opposed to his support for U.S. forces and who had made threats against him because of it.
"According to the station owner, and to the local police chief, and to other provincial officials, he had legitimate permits for most of the weapons, though not the RPG--which he and they all admit," Nordland wrote in an email. "He just felt he was such a target--because of his support for the government side--that he needed that. And no one was arrested in the end, just detained."
National Press Club President Belkind, in a statement Wednesday, expressed continued concern about the incident.
"While we appreciate the Pentagon's response to our query, the inconsistencies between the official account and the reports on the ground continue to cause us concern over the possibility that U.S. forces may not have respected the rights of these journalists," Belkind said. "We will continue to monitor such situations. And we urge U.S. military leaders to respect the basic rights of reporters--and others--as U.S. troops carry out their mission."
The National Press Club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. Its Press Freedom Committee leads Club efforts to defend the rights of journalists worldwide.