Journalists Face Mental Stress from Censorship Under Taliban
Several journalists and media workers in Afghanistan have reported that they are facing increasing pressure from Taliban intelligence. They have stated that, due to arrests and threats of intimidation from the Taliban, journalists working for them have resorted to extreme self-censorship and have experienced mental health issues. Additionally, the majority of Afghan journalists are dealing with severe financial difficulties.
Organizations that provide aid to journalists have corroborated the precarious situation of these journalists. Nai Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan has reported that hundreds of journalists have been laid off or have left Afghanistan since the Taliban assumed control on August 15, 2021. Nai has also asserted that there is a daily increase in violence against Afghan journalists, who have been forced to take on strenuous labor due to the dire economic circumstances. It is unclear what will happen to the regulations that protect media and journalists in Afghanistan.
Mustafa (pseudonym), who had worked for various Afghan media outlets for six years, spoke to Hasht-e-Subh in an interview, where he attributed the severe restrictions on the media to the Taliban. He stated that, since the Taliban have taken control of the country, journalists have been subjected to extreme self-censorship, arrests, threats, fear and psychological distress. He went on to say that the Taliban had made the situation increasingly difficult for journalists, using various pretexts to arrest and torture them. He recounted an incident where he had been detained and held captive for several hours while compiling a report on economic affairs in the capital.
Mustafa stated that he has been arrested and threatened by the Taliban on three occasions while he was writing a report. He further claimed that the Taliban were attempting to instill mental distress and fear in journalists in order to ensure their silence.
Female journalists have been subject to more stringent restrictions than their male counterparts. Feroza Ebrahimkhel, a journalist who has been working in Afghan media for the past three years, reported that the Taliban refused her access while she was preparing a report.
We are not allowed to create a report on the Taliban. Feroza noted that the Taliban officials do not respond to requests for interviews and sometimes even deny female journalists access to their conferences.
The majority of Afghan journalists are facing both severe economic hardship and severe Taliban media restrictions. According to available sources, some journalists have been forced to abandon their profession and pursue other occupations due to the suspension of many media outlets in the country.
Mohammad Hassan Sardash, a former reporter from Faryab province, is now working as a driver on the Maimana-Mazare-e-Sharif highway in order to support his family. He had been employed in the media for the past 15 years, but had to flee Afghanistan due to the Taliban’s regaining of power. Unfortunately, he was unable to remain in Iran due to the country’s economic situation and the Iranian government’s mistreatment of Afghan journalists and other Afghan refugees. In addition to Mohammad Hassan, who has borrowed his friend’s car to work as a driver, many Afghan journalists are currently facing financial difficulties throughout Afghanistan.
On March 18, the National Day of Journalists, the National Union of Afghan Journalists reported that, due to the cessation of approximately 50% of the media, approximately 53% of journalists and media personnel have been made redundant. This organization’s announcement stated that “a significant number of journalists and media professionals have left the country. The future of media protection laws and journalists is still uncertain. Furthermore, due to extreme poverty, some journalists have been compelled to take up manual labor.” NUAJ implored the Taliban and foreign organizations to address the issues and challenges confronting journalists. However, the Taliban have failed to address any of the issues currently being faced by Afghan journalists in Afghanistan.
On National Journalists’ Day, Nai Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan described the situation of Afghan media and journalism as deteriorating and reported that several media outlets had ceased operations due to the ongoing extreme economic difficulties in Afghanistan. On Friday, March 17, Nai declared that hundreds of journalists have either been laid off or have left the country due to the media ceasing operations in Afghanistan, and further noted that violence against journalists is increasing daily. “Since the start of 2023, media, journalists, media activity, and journalism have all been confronted with unique challenges. There has been a rise in violence against journalists since the start of the year,” Nai added.
Since assuming control of Afghanistan, the Taliban have imposed numerous restrictions on the media and journalists. Furthermore, the Afghan economy has caused the bankruptcy of multiple media outlets, as the international community has consistently urged the Taliban to terminate its arbitrary detention of journalists and relax its restrictions on the media for the past two years. Despite these requests, the Taliban continue to impede the media and attempt to imprison, intimidate, and suppress journalists.