CPJ urges Taliban to end media crackdown on 2nd anniversary of its rule

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a US-based watchdog body, has called on the Taliban to stop, what it called, the “relentless campaign of media intimidation” and abide by its promise to protect journalists in Afghanistan.

“Two years after the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan’s once vibrant free press is a ghost of its former self,” Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, said in a statement issued on Monday.

“Worsening media repression is isolating Afghanistan from the rest of the world, at a time when the country is grappling with one of the world’s largest humanitarian emergencies,” CPJ said.

“Access to reliable and trustworthy information can help save lives and livelihoods in a crisis, but the Taliban’s escalating crackdown on media is doing the opposite.”

Despite an initial promise to allow press freedom after taking power on August 15, 2021, the Taliban have shut down dozens of local media outlets, banned some international broadcasters, and denied visas to foreign correspondents, CPJ pointed out.

CPJ published a special report about the media crisis in Afghanistan in August 2022, and it said it has continued to document multiple cases of censorship, beatings, and arbitrary arrests of journalists, as well as restrictions on female reporters. The Taliban’s intelligence agency, the General Directorate of Intelligence, has been the driving force behind the crackdown, CPJ said.

In the last two years, hundreds of Afghan journalists have fled to neighboring countries like Pakistan and Iran, and many are now stuck in legal limbo without clear prospects of resettlement to a third country, it said, adding that since 2021, Afghans have become among the largest share of exiled journalists receiving emergency support from CPJ each year.

CPJ said when CPJ conducted its most recent annual worldwide census of imprisoned journalists on December 1, 2022, Afghanistan appeared for the first time in 12 years, with three reporters in jail.

By Ch Fahad Khan Janda