By: Fatima H Bakhsh
On June 24, the Taliban threatened media and journalists in Afghanistan to stop their anti-Taliban ads funded by the Afghan and US governments. This happens while the Taliban leaders are negotiating over peace with the US officials to end the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s military commission gave a week deadline to all Afghan media organizations including radio stations and TV channels to stop advertising against them. The nature of broadcasted advertainments was based on fighting the Taliban’s narrative, discouraging recruitment and promoting the local to report on Taliban’s suspicious activities.
The commission also added that if there are any continued broadcasts against them by any media agency, their journalists and staff members will no longer be safe as they will no longer be treated as media outlets but military targets aiding the Western-backed government of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is the world’s deadliest country to be a journalist. According to International Federation of Journalists 16 journalists were killed in 2018 marking Afghanistan first on list of the most dangerous places for media workers. Also, in 2019, Reporters without Borders (RSF) reports that there have been at least 45 cases of violence against journalists and the media, including threats, physical violence and destruction of media outlets.
This is not the first time the media has been threatened by the Taliban. In January 2016, the group claimed responsibility for a bomb attack targeting TOLO TV, the most popular private TV station in Afghanistan, killing 7 employees. The Taliban claimed the attack to pay off for what it said was false and unfair reporting by TOLO TV where they reported that the Taliban raped female students in city of Kunduz’s battle.
The counited peace talks between the US and the Taliban at the beginning of 2019 has not brought any positive hopes to improved security for journalists in Afghanistan. Journalists safety and freedom of press are of the main concerns if a peace deal happens with the Taliban. While, threatening and putting limitations on media work shows the Taliban’s fear of a free and independent press, there is a concern over partial or total ban on media if the Taliban return to power.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid stated if they return to power, they would implement an Islamic version of freedom of press. “We won’t allow propaganda, insults and humiliation to people in society and religious values. We will allow those who work for the betterment of the society,” he told AFP.
Concerns remain despite progress in a condition-based ceasefire. The US officials and the Taliban representatives have been working to agree on foreign troops exit in return for not allowing Afghanistan’s soil to be used for any threats against the US. However, human rights and media activists worry to lose gained achievements over 18 years including freedom of press and improved conditions for women and other minority groups in Afghanistan.