Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Afghanistan's Taliban rulers of stepping up censorship and violence against media workers outside the capital, Kabul, since taking over the war-wracked country in August.
"The situation facing journalists outside Kabul appears much worse than inside the capital, particularly for women," HRW said in a report published on March 7, accusing the group of dramatically limiting critical reporting in Afghanistan.
HRW spoke with 24 journalists and other media workers in 17 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces who said the Taliban actively monitors their publications and compels them to have their reports approved by the provincial Directorate of Information and Culture before publication.
Threats, detainments, and beatings against media workers trying to report the news were documented by journalists from the provinces who talked to HRW.
Taliban intelligence officials regularly instruct media organizations on what to publish and warn them not to contradict Taliban policies or to report on violent crimes committed by Taliban officials.
"Many journalists have felt compelled to self-censor and report only Taliban statements and official events," the report said, adding that women journalists bore the brunt of "the most intense repression."
“Taliban harassment and attacks on journalists outside major urban areas have largely gone unreported, causing media outlets in outlying provinces to self-censor or close altogether,” said HRW's Afghanistan researcher Fereshta Abbasi.
HRW said some 80 percent of women journalists across Afghanistan have lost their jobs since the Taliban takeover, and hundreds of media outlets have closed.
Abbasi said that in many areas the Taliban has virtually eliminated reporting on a wide range of issues and has driven women journalists "out of the profession."