Afghan Journalists Struggling Financially Forced to Sell Body Parts
By: Amin Kawa
Since the fall of the republic, media has faced many difficulties. The freedom of the media and access to free information, which had been greatly improved in the last two decades, have been destroyed since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. This has caused many journalists and media outlets to suffer financially as they had to flee the Taliban and seek refuge in countries such as Pakistan and Iran. Journalists living in Pakistan are now in a dire financial situation, and some have resorted to selling their body parts in order to survive. Recently, two journalists even sold their kidneys online.
Hundreds of media workers have left Afghanistan since the Taliban took control. Many journalists left during the evacuation process, while others sought refuge in Iran and Pakistan, where they are struggling to make a living. Samir Jahish, an Afghan former journalist who now lives in Pakistan, was forced to sell one of his kidneys due to financial difficulties.
Mr. Jahesh told Hasht-e-Subh that he had been struggling financially for the past 16 months in Pakistan, and had posted about his dire situation on social media. His post was shared widely, in which he said that his family had nothing to eat, and that they were living in a country worse than Afghanistan, and that he was willing to sell one of his kidneys. He included his phone number and a photo.
Younis Qarizada, another former Afghan media employee, has sold his kidney in the past. In an interview with Hasht-e-Subh, the disabled Qarizada said, “I cannot express how desperate my situation is. I am selling my kidney due to my financial hardship. I am willing to do whatever it takes.” Mr. Qarizada had previously worked at Haqiqat Radio Station and Sima-e-Sulh T.V Channel in Samangan province to support his family. He also mentioned that he has been struggling financially since he moved to Pakistan over a year ago, leaving him with no other choice but to sell his kidney.
Jahanzeb Wisa, who used to discuss the plight of people in the most insecure province of Afghanistan during the republic on the radio, is another journalist facing financial difficulties. Wisa used to be an anchor on the radio in Uruzgan province, but has been struggling with economic hardship in Pakistan for the past year. In an interview with Hasht-e-Subh, Wisa expressed his dissatisfaction with media support organizations, claiming that they only help journalists who have strong connections with them. He went on to say, “My financial situation is dire. It seems that international media support organizations only assist those they are familiar with. I have asked for help multiple times, but have not received a satisfactory response. We are disheartened and do not know what will happen next.”
Journalists are facing the same financial hardship, feeling despondent with no prospects in the surrounding countries, particularly Pakistan. They cannot go back to Afghanistan and are uncertain of what lies ahead.
Hedayatullah Ahadi is a journalist who is in a vulnerable situation, having had to flee the Taliban due to security risks in Afghanistan. In an interview with Hash-e-Subh, he said that he had used up all his savings in the past year and a half, and now has no money left. He had to borrow more than one thousand US dollars and extend his visa for another six months in Pakistan. He is currently facing economic difficulties and has not received any help from any organization. Ahadi, a father of four children who is currently unemployed, is in a dire situation. He mentioned that living costs in Pakistan are very expensive and he is unable to pay for his rent.
Afghan journalists are not only at risk of mental health issues, but they are also in danger of being arrested and deported to Afghanistan. Recently, Pakistani police have started arresting and deporting migrants again after the suicide attacks in Peshawar and Quetta. Assadullah Sultani, an Afghan journalist, was arrested in Hyderabad city earlier this month. The Afghan Journalists Association has stated that Sultani was a photographer for the organization. Sultani’s family has asked the Pakistani government to release him as soon as possible.
Afghan journalists who have been displaced by the Taliban are concerned about their economic and mental wellbeing as the Taliban continues to oppress, eliminate, and threaten them, as well as restrict freedom of speech. The Taliban’s ministry of information and culture announced a month earlier that they would oppress some media outlets that are dictated by outsiders and publicize against the Taliban. Abdulhaq Hemad, the head of the supervision of media publications in the Taliban’s ministry of information and culture, has stated that the trial on media outlets operating from outside and working to “destroy the system” will soon announce its decision. Hemad also reported that there are currently 55 television channels and 164 radio stations active across Afghanistan, without providing exact new statistics of news sites and printed publications.
The Taliban have recently begun to impose more and more restrictions and censorship on media. A source told Hasht-e-Subh that the Taliban are creating a policy to limit the presence of women in media. In November 2022, the Taliban warned a media outlet in Nimruz province not to broadcast without their permission. Furthermore, the Taliban have often stopped local reporters from covering protests and demonstrations in Ghazni province.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman of the Taliban and the former deputy minister of media of the Ministry of Information and Culture of the Taliban, met with media officials and media support organizations and announced that the mass media law made by the republican system was enforceable. However, the Taliban have been continuing to arrest journalists and impose censorship on the media despite their claims. Recently, Reporters Without Borders Organization reported that the Taliban arrested Mortaza Behboodi, a French–Afghan journalist, a month ago and accused him of espionage.
The Afghanistan Journalist Center announced on Friday, 30 December 2022, that there had been more than 250 violations of media freedom in the country during the year.
The Taliban were responsible for most of these violations, with a few exceptions. On Saturday, 19 November 2022, the Association of Women in Radio and Television, in collaboration with Inter–news, released the results of a survey which showed that 231 media outlets had been closed and 6,400 journalists had lost their jobs since the Taliban took power until late November 2022. As a result, the World Coalition for Media Freedom revoked Afghanistan‘s membership in the organization, citing the lack of freedom of the media under the Taliban‘s rule.
After the Taliban gained power in Afghanistan, media support organizations expressed worries about the Taliban‘s restrictions on the media. In response, Reporters Without Borders released a report showing that before the regime change, Afghanistan had 547 media outlets, but one year later, 219 of them had ceased operations and 76.19 percent of the 11,857 media employees had lost their jobs.