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HRW Says Taliban ‘Suffocating Media Freedom’ In Afghanistan


A member of the Taliban special forces pushes a journalist (left) covering a demonstration by women protesters outside a school in Kabul on September 30.

The Taliban has imposed “wide-ranging restrictions on media and free speech” since seizing control of Afghanistan in August, said Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In late September, the Taliban-led government introduced a list of rules for Afghan journalists that critics say opens the door to censorship and persecution.

“Despite the Taliban’s promises to allow media that ‘respected Islamic values’ to function, the new rules are suffocating media freedom in the country,” Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at HRW, said in a statement on October 1.

“The Taliban regulations are so sweeping that journalists are self-censoring and fear ending up in prison.”

Since seizing power in mid-August, the Taliban said the Afghan media will remain "free and independent," provided they work according to "Islamic principles," and are fair and serve "national interests."

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The Taliban announced 11 new “journalism rules” on September 19 that forbid journalists to broadcast or publish stories that are “contrary to Islam,” “insult national figures,” or violate “privacy.”

Media outlets are also required to “prepare detailed reports” with the new governmental regulatory body before publication.

Rights groups have said the vaguely worded rules could be used to persecute journalists.

The Taliban has also “arbitrarily detained journalists and beaten several,” according to HRW.

The head of a journalists’ advocacy group told HRW that the Taliban has taken at least 32 journalists into custody since they seized power in Kabul on August 15.

Most were released after warnings about their reporting, but some were beaten, HRW said.

HRW said the Taliban’s intelligence office has also summoned journalists and warned them that their reporting constituted “propaganda” and needed to stop.

Afghanistan was ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2021 World Press Freedom Index published in April.

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