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RSF Warns Of New Taliban Threat To Afghan Media

Afghans pray and light candles to pay tribute to Afghan journalists killed in a suicide attack in Kabul in April.
Afghans pray and light candles to pay tribute to Afghan journalists killed in a suicide attack in Kabul in April.

The global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned a new Taliban threat against media in Afghanistan.

In a June 20 statement, RSF warned of a Taliban threat to Afghan media after airstrikes reportedly targeted an insurgent radio station in central Afghanistan earlier this month.

“We once again warn all parties to the conflict, both state and non-state actors, and remind them of their obligations as regards the protection of journalists,” said Reza Moini, RSF’s Afghanistan desk head.

He warned that attacks on civilian targets, including journalists, amounted to war crimes. “We will hold Taliban delegations abroad, including their office in Doha, to account for every Taliban attack on journalists and media,” he noted.

In a June 12 statement, the Taliban had claimed that “American occupying forces” destroyed their Voice Of Shariah Radio station in the central province of Ghazni.

“The enemy and media organizations must recognize that the mujahedin of the Islamic Emirate (formal name of the Taliban) will not tolerate such actions in the future,” the insurgents, who have targeted media organizations, said in the communique. “If our media faces such actions in the future, our reaction will be very strong.”

Washington, however, denied the accusation. On June 12, Ghazni police chief Farid Ahmad Mashal said airstrikes by Afghan security forces had killed six Taliban fighters and destroyed their propaganda outfit.

Lieutenant-Colonel Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission, said the Taliban statement “speaks volumes with regards to the capabilities” of the Afghan Air Force.

“It was two Afghan Air Force A-29s (not five U.S. aircraft) that conducted the strike on a Taliban radio broadcasting tower (not radio station) on June 10,” he said.

RSF noted that previous Taliban threats against media have been followed by deadly attacks.

In October 2015, the Taliban described Tolo TV and TV1, Afghanistan’s two biggest privately owned TV stations, as military targets. A few months later, seven employees of the Kabura production company, part of Tolo TV’s parent company, Moby Group, were killed in suicide attack January 20, 2016.

“RSF regards the Taliban as enemies of the press,” the statement said. “Their goal is to create news and information black holes, and they have done this in the areas they control.”

The organization says the Taliban and Islamic State (IS) militants are responsible for killing most of the 36 journalists killed in Afghanistan since the beginning of 2016.

Afghanistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. According to RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index, Afghanistan ranks 118th out of 180 countries.

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