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Journalists fear Taliban control media in Afghanistan

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The Taliban ask the media to avoid programs “opposed to Islamic and Afghan values.”

Journalists and NGOs on Tuesday denounced the new rules approved by the Taliban regime on televisions, as they fear that it will be the beginning of censorship against the media in Afghanistan.

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The Taliban government published a series of “religious directives” to the media on Sunday, the first regulation of the sector by Islamic fundamentalists since they took power in mid-August.

They ask the media to avoid programs “opposed to Islamic and Afghan values.”

“Let us imagine what the media would look like under these new directives: a journalist, a man with a thick beard, starts his article with a few words in Arabic and ends it with praise” for the Taliban regime, Zaki Daryabi, the official in charge, wrote on Twitter. from Etilaat Roz (“Info Day”), one of the main Afghan dailies.

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Dayabi, like hundreds of other Afghan journalists, lives in exile after fleeing the country for fear of retaliation from the Taliban.

The Afghan journalists had the support of the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), which accuses the Taliban of wanting to “silence all criticism” against their regime, and denounced the threats and pressure, especially against women.

“Millions of Afghans are starving but, yes, let us further reduce the freedom of expression of the media, that will solve the problems of Afghanistan,” said Shaharzad Akbar, president in exile of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, on Twitter. .

The Taliban also asked Afghan televisions not to broadcast series “showing women”, such as the popular soap operas and soap operas produced in Turkey and India, which are central to the economic accounts of many media outlets.

“What are you thinking?” Akbar added, referring to the Taliban. “When will you really start ruling the country and serving it, instead of controlling, destroying and repressing?”

“The enemy”

The new rules stipulate in turn that women journalists must wear “the Islamic veil” during their appearances, without specifying what is meant by a veil, a simple scarf (which women on television usually wear), or a veil that covers more.

“These directives put the freedom of the media at risk” and will reduce “the presence of women journalists,” wrote on Twitter Zan TV, the first Afghan television station exclusively made up of women producers and reporters.

Women journalists “will feel more threatened,” Aslia Ahmadzai, an independent journalist in the northwestern part of the country, told AFP.

An Afghan journalist in exile who preferred to remain anonymous sees this as “the first step towards a ban on all televisions, as in the 1990s.”

The Taliban government defends itself against these criticisms. But his latest statements on the subject do not reassure the Afghan media and the NGOs.

On Sunday, Qari Abdul Sattar Saeed, head of media for the Taliban prime minister, described the media as intermediaries for the “enemy’s” “propaganda”.

According to Sattar Saeed, “until now, we have had a lot of patience” tolerating “most of the propaganda spread around the world.” “But when we see how the enemy behaves, we cannot tolerate or forgive them. They must be treated as they deserve, harshly ”.

During its first stage, from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban banned television and all forms of entertainment, which they deemed immoral. After its defeat in 2001, the Afghan media landscape became very rich and dozens of radio and television networks saw the light, in many cases supported by the West.

After his return to power, many media closed before the departure of their journalists, the end of international aid and advertising revenue.

Many journalists who decided to stay in the country left their posts, especially the women. Others have been beaten or detained by the Taliban, such as those covering “unauthorized” demonstrations by women against the new power.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), many other journalists live in fear of threats from the Taliban, or forced to publish information that is favorable to them. (I)

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