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Taliban Releases Three Afghan TV Staffers

Journalists work in the newsroom at TOLOnews, the country's leading independent television network.

The Taliban has released three employees of Afghanistan's largest television station, Tolo TV.

The three -- presenter Bahram Aman, news director Khpolwak Sapai, and legal adviser Nafi Khaleeq -- were arrested "for broadcasting news that the authorities had banned television channels from airing foreign drama serials," Tolo News said in a statement on March 18.

Sapai and Khaleeq were released within hours. Aman was kept in custody overnight and released in the evening of March 18, the station said.

After seizing power in August, the Taliban banned TV stations from broadcasting dramas or soaps unless they had an Islamic theme.

The ban had been only loosely observed, but the Taliban-led government now appears to be more strictly enforcing the directive, and Tolo News had reported on the change.

Reports of the trio's arrest prompted a strong reaction from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

"The UN urges the release of all those taken away by gunmen and an end to the intimidation and threats against journalists and independent media," it said on Twitter.

The Committee to Protect Journalists also reacted, issuing a statement that called for the immediate release of Aman and an end to the detention and intimidation of Afghan journalists.

During the Taliban's first stint in power from 1996 to 2001, the Islamist group banned television, movies, and most other forms of entertainment as immoral.

Despite promising a softer version of their rule since returning to power, they have cracked down on journalists, critics of the regime, and women activists demanding rights to work and education.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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