Afghan journalists increasingly harassed by Taliban: Reporters Without Borders

Afghanistan is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index which RSF issued in April 2021.
Image for representational purpose only ( Photo | AP)
Image for representational purpose only ( Photo | AP)

KABUL: Condemning the surge in threats against journalists in Afghanistan, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Friday said that journalists and media workers in the country are facing increasing "harassment" in the Taliban regime.

Reporters Without Borders said in a statement that the Taliban intelligence agency, known as 'Istikhbarat', and the Ministry for Promoting Virtue and Suppressing Vice are directly implicated in this harassment, which violates Afghanistan's press law.

"Reporters Without Borders condemns the surge in threats, summons for interrogation and arbitrary arrests to which journalists and media outlets have been subjected for the past two months in Afghanistan," the statement by the Paris-based organisation said.

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan on August 15 last year, at least 50 journalists and media workers have been detained briefly or arrested by the police or Istikhbarat.

These arrests, which are often accompanied by violence, have lasted from several hours to nearly a week. They usually occur when journalists are covering street demonstrations by women in the capital, Kabul, and show the increasingly important role that the Istikhbarat is playing in the harassment of the media, the statement said.

"Headed by Abolhag Wasiq, this intelligence service is playing a key role in the Taliban regime and is directly overseen by the interim prime minister. It has replaced the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS), itself the heir of the KHAD (State Intelligence Agency), a local branch of the KGB during the 1980s," it added.

The Istikhbarat is not just directly involved in arresting journalists. According to RSF several media outlets have received threatening phone calls and summonses for questioning from Istikhbarat officials.

"Threatening to rip out journalists' tongues in order to prevent them from covering certain subjects is completely unacceptable," said Reza Moini, the head of RSF's Iran-Afghanistan desk.

"Journalists must be able to practice their profession without being under a permanent threat of arrest and torture. These unlawful threats, which violate Afghanistan's media legislation, are all the more horrifying for coming at a time of growing harassment and increasingly restrictive rules for the right to news and information."

Afghanistan is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index which RSF issued in April 2021.

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