Journalists Urge the Taliban Not to Put Pressure on the Media

Many Afghan journalists expressed their concerns over the closure of 153 news outlets, saying the Taliban should respect freedom of expression. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) says at least 153 media outlets have stopped operations and female journalists fired since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. In a report released on Friday (September 17th), the federation expressed strong concern about the escalation of violence against journalists and the security of media staff.

Zafarshah Royee, the Executive Director of Kodak Khabar, says that journalism has its meaning and effectiveness in an environment where the media is considered an influential factor. There has to be someone who takes their criticisms into account. In the current situation, journalists are forced to engage in self-censorship. Mr. Royee adds that a political system that sees the media as its enemy and prevents their free activities is a dictatorship.

“Ineffective political systems are always trying to put pressure on the media and block the free flow of information under various pretexts,” he says. “Only systems that have respect for the right to freedom of expression can open up in the hearts of the people.”

According to the IFJ, reports of arrests, confiscation of equipment, and even torture and beatings of journalists in Afghanistan are on the rise. The federation added that 7,000 media staff have been affected by the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul so far.

“I believe that what we will see is a government-backed media – an all-male Taliban media,” Anthony Bellanger, Secretary-General of the IFJ says.

However, the federation has expressed concern for the safety of journalists after the release of some 1,000 Afghan prisoners by the Taliban, as they had covered their detention during the previous government. Meanwhile, the IFJ added that more than 150 media workers have sent an open letter to the United Nations calling for concrete measures to rescue Afghan journalists.

“Unfortunately, in the current situation, the media is rapidly taking steps backward,” Royee believes. “We are losing the greatest achievement of the last two decades. It is very frustrating when you see that there is no opportunity for criticism, and the media stops working.”

It has been almost a month since some media outlets ceased operating, because in the current government, they are unable to fulfil their commitment to criticize, inform, and enlighten.

Meanwhile, Kabul resident Ehsanullah Vakili says the media is an educational tool in addition to publishing news and reports. According to him, he used to read the newspapers if he wanted to know about socio-political affairs.

“As an artist, I was strongly affected by the news of the closure of more than 153 media outlets in our country,” Ehsanullah Vakili states.

Vakily says that the immunity of journalists should be taken into account, the closure of the media was a very disappointing news.

On the other hand, Khairullah Khairkhah, the acting head of the Taliban’s Ministry for Information and Culture, says that the media should publish content that includes “the good of this world and the hereafter.”

“We work together to show our nation something that people can benefit from,” the acting Taliban minister for information and culture said in a video on Friday, September 17. He says that the content of the media outlets should not deteriorate the public mentality and promote “non-Islamic” and “non-Afghan” cultures. He also emphasizes that media’s contents should be in accordance with the principles of Islamic jurisprudence, Afghan customs and traditions.

Meanwhile, journalist Zeinab Farahmand says censorship and pressure on the media have disrupted her work. She believes that lack of financial and human resources has led to a decline in media production. Farahmand adds that the free activity of the media should be respected so that media outlets are not forced to halt their operations.