“Mortaza wanted his journalism to humanise the suffering around the world. He wanted to show the story of the people living in authoritarian regimes,” Morataza Behboudi’s wife Aleksandra Mostovaja told us on Friday at the DISSIDENT club, at an event organized to raise awareness about Mortaza’s case.
Mortaza Behboudi is a Franco-Afghani journalist who has been unjustly accused of spying by the Taliban. He has been imprisoned in Afghanistan and prevented from returning to France since January 7, 2023.
Behboudi began his career as a photojournalist in Kabul just at the age of 16. By 21, his publications about the Taliban in the country had resulted in threats to his life, which led him to flee Afghanistan and seek refuge in France. Living in Paris with a refugee status, he obtained his master’s degree from Sorbonne while continuing to work with several French news organisations to highlight the subjugation of people, especially women, by the Afghan Taliban. His French teacher from Sorbonne fondly remembered his commitment to learning French, at the DISSIDENT club “he put in all his effort into learning this language, and mastered it in 6 months”.
In 2016 he became widely noted for his coverage of the Moria refugee camps on Lesbos, Greece, where he became the only journalist to be reporting in person from the camp. Since the 2021 Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, his journalism has focused on stories from his native country. His report series Across Afghanistan, published in Mediapart, won the Bayeux Prize for War Correspondents twice.
“He has travelled to Afghanistan so many times with foreign journalists for his projects, it’s important to note that it was the first time he travelled alone, that they decided to arrest him”, Sadaf Rahimi, an Afghan journalist who worked alongside Behboudi said. “Whenever I worked in Afghanistan with foreign journalists, the Taliban, even the soldiers, were very nice and cooperative with all our needs and questions. But when we, Afghan journalists, would go alone, their behaviour would drastically change. This just shows how important they consider their international image”, she said, calling for the international media to highlight Behboudi’s case.
Since Behboudi’s arrest and detention in Afghanistan, RSF has worked tirelessly to free him and combat the espionage charges against him. On 10th February, they joined the International and the European Federation of Journalists, and several French journalist’s unions and 15 French media companies to demand for the immediate release of Mortaza Behboudi.
At the DISSIDENT club, Geneviève Garrigos, a counsellor to the mayor of Paris, and an elected representative of the 20ème arrondissement said, “We will work together with RSF to bring Mortaza back to France, We call for the freedom of the press and to let journalists do their jobs unharmed.”
The DISSIDENT club event and protest was attended by several of Mortaza’s friends including Afghan refugees, journalist colleagues and well-wishers.
“Mortaza is a journalist, only a journalist, and fully a journalist. He should be released accordingly”, said Antoine Bernard of Reports Sans Frontières which has launched a global campaign including a petition to pressure the Taliban and the French authorities to do more and mobilise support against the unfair imprisonment of Behboudi. You can sign the petition here.
Following the discussion, DJ Marwan, an Afghan musician in exile played Afghan remix tunes to close the event.
The day after, the DISSIDENT club also co-organised a demonstration on Saturday with Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) in Paris to raise awareness about Mortaza’s case and to push the French authorities to do more to ensure his release.
Report by: Leah Koonthamattam, team < the DISSIDENT club >