Two Afghan journalists working for the Arab satellite news network al-Jazeera were released by coalition forces on Friday after being arrested in their homes the previous Monday on charges of aiding "insurgent propaganda networks and their affiliates." The arrests of Mohammad Nadir and Rahmatullah Naikzad, who worked for both al-Jazeera and the Associated Press, had sparked an international uproar among journalism groups. On Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai also called for their release. NATO spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith said in a statement, "After reviewing the initial intelligence and information received during questioning, the two men were not considered a significant security threat and were released." Earlier, Samir Allawi, head of the al-Jazeera bureau in Kabul, said that he had been told by a spokesperson for the International Security Assistance Force that it had intercepted telephone calls between the Taliban and its reporter. Alawi said that Naikzad also had "strong relations" with the "foreign troops." "We treat all these sides equally and we have no problem citing any of them [in our reports]. ... Nothing justifies the arrests, which are no more than an attempt to muzzle the media." In an interview with the A.P. on Saturday, Nadir said that coalition forces had stormed his house at 4 a.m. and drove him, handcuffed and blindfolded, to Kandahar Air Field where he was questioned five different times. "I was shocked that they were asking me illogical questions like 'Why are you constantly contacting the Taliban spokesman?' I said 'It is my duty to have a link with them because I'm a journalist. Every journalist has contacts with the Taliban -- not in the form of helping them, but to get the news from them.'" Bob Dietz of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists told A.P. that the men were "legitimate journalists. They never should have been detained in the first place."
MOVIEGOERS BUY WALL STREET DERIVATIVE The overall economy may be sagging but Wall Street raked in handsome profits this weekend -- Wall Street Money Never Sleeps, the 20th Century Fox movie, that is. According to studio estimates, it earned $19 million, about what industry gurus had predicted. Also as predicted, persons over 30 made up the bulk of the movie's audience -- 65 percent, according to studio exit polling. That's a particularly good sign, since older moviegoers often wait to hear what their friends have to say about a film before taking it in themselves. In exit polls, moviegoers gave the film a B- rating. Audiences also seemed to give a hoot about the 3D animated Legend of the Guardians The Owls of Ga'hoole from Warner Bros., which racked up an estimated $16.3 million. Some 69 percent of the 3,575 theaters showing it were 3D-equipped. And although 3D IMAX theaters accounted for only 5 percent of the total, they accounted for more than 10 percent of the gross. A third wide release, Disney's You Again, aimed at older women (who indeed made up 75 percent of the audience), wound up with $8.3 million, to place fifth. Holdovers held over nicely. Warner Bros.' Ben Affleck starrer The Town dropped just 33 percent in its second week to place third with $16 million. Indeed, the figure was so close to Legend of the Guardians' that it could reverse positions with that movie when final figures are announced on Monday. The Sony comedy Easy A also got high marks by dropping just 40 percent in its second week to an estimated $10.7 million, good enough for fourth place. The biggest disappointment of the weekend was the negatively reviewed comedy The Virginity Hit . The film earned just $300,000 on 700 screens, or an average of about $400 per screen.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Box Office Mojo 1. Wall Street Money Never Sleeps , $19 million; 2. Legend of the Guardians The Owls of Ga'Hoole, $16.3 million; 3. The Town , $16 million; 4. Easy A , $10.7 million; 5. You Again , $8.3 million; 6 . Devil, $6.5 million; 7. Resident Evil Afterlife, $4.9 million; 8. Alpha and Omega , $4.7 million; 9. Takers , $1.7 million; 10. Inception , $1.2 million.