After the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban in 2021, the media outlets that remained in Afghanistan and decided to continue operations inside the country have been facing enormous challenges, pressures, and suppressions. Forcing women presenters to cover their faces while presenting programs on Afghan TV channels and imposing extra-judicial decrees to extend even more control over free media without considering the Mass Media Law and Access to Information Act, are a few examples of the Taliban act against free media. Reporting became a tremendously risky job in Afghanistan and forced media activists to escape the country.
The Taliban group does not believe in press freedom and treats it as a risk to their autocratic administration. The Taliban group has increased pressure on media outlets to intervene and prevent the flow of uncensored information to the public. The group has been continuously resisting to let the people and international community know about the many cases of arrests, prosecution, torture, and even terror of many former military officials. The group has imposed further restrictions on any objection to the Taliban leadership and other members to block public opinion from questioning their regime. Keeping people uninformed of the real situation and providing a fake image of the country has been one of the strategies of this group to seduce public opinion and deceive the international community.
In the last 16 years, Hasht-e Subh Daily Newspaper has been a platform for promoting independent journalism and has tried to take the people’s stance. During the previous administrations, the newspaper was a bold voice of people in the public battle against corruption, naming and shaming civilian and military officials and other corrupt elements within and outside the government. The newspaper continued to stand with people in revealing crimes and human rights violations by the Taliban group in the last year.
Reflecting on the problems of people and speaking for them to balance the information that was and is being provided by the state-owned media, has been a priority for this newspaper. Knowing the ideologies that drive the Taliban group, the management of the newspaper had the anticipation that the Taliban group would tighten the ground for the operation of a free press. In practice, illegal summoning and threatening the employees of this newspaper caused some employees to either leave Afghanistan or hide inside the country. The Taliban group took the pressure to another level and announced rewards for those who could help the Taliban to find the whereabouts of the Hasht-e Subh Daily reporters. In a couple of cases, some of the regional and local reporters were arrested and tortured in accusation of being a member of Hasht-e Subh Daily, but those cases never became a media story for certain security reasons.
In a recent attempt, the Taliban’s Ministry of Telecommunication suspended the domain of Hasht-e Subh Daily (www.8am.media). The domain [8am.media] was legally purchased, registered, owned, and was actively online for the last 16 years by this newspaper. The annual charge of the domain was also prepaid for a year a few months ago. This act of the Taliban, impressed by the dictatorships and totalitarian regimes, is observed as an obvious act against the free press, free flow of information, and freedom of speech, and is considered a clear sign of free media suppression. Besides violating one of the major rights of the people on access to free information, this policy of the Taliban means imposing further censorship and trying to hide the crimes and extra-judicial acts of this group from the public. In addition, the decision on suspending the Hasht-e Subh Daily’s domain is an attempt to avoid the world from knowing what is happening in Afghanistan under the rule of this tyranny and extremist terrorist group.
Hasht-e Subh Daily Newspaper has been and will remain committed to professional, independent, and fair journalism, and has defined its stance to reflect the truth and to be the voice of people. This newspaper will continue to be the voice of Afghans and tell the story of Afghanistan to Afghans and to the world. Hasht e Subh believes that such suppressing acts of a dictator regime will not silence the voice of the people and will not lead to a complete ban on free expression. We have the support of people, and the free media community, and we know that such acts by the Taliban lead them to failure.
While we deal with the case through international mechanisms, we want to assure our readers that all the content of Hasht-e Subh Daily is safe and there is no concern about the leakage of readers’ information or loss of contents from Hasht-e Subh Website. We have lost control of our domain only, and thanks to the proper and timely backups we had in place to safeguard the contents and archive of our website. The content of the website is stored on an external server and out of the reach of the Taliban group. We will not surrender and even continue with a more firm and dedicated commitment to being the people’s voice. From now on, our respected readers and audience can follow us via www.8am.media.
We request all human rights bodies, press freedom entities, free media outlets, and states that are committed to defending human rights values to not forget the people of Afghanistan in such a hectic situation, and not let Afghanistan change into a state with no image and no voice. Protecting press freedom and defending the freedom of expression is an integral part to defend democracy, rule of law, and human rights.