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Monday, January 30, 2023

Freedom of expression in Afghanistan

The Taliban’s rise to power in Kabul overnight has shattered the democratic freedoms that Afghanistan has gained over the past 20 years. As the US-led NATO military coalition battled international terrorism, Afghan society emerged as one of Central Asia’s leading independent media outlets, beating supposedly democratic countries in the region like Tajikistan , Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. However, over the past year, the Taliban have shut down or restricted dozens of media outlets. Representatives of the press have been arrested and women journalists have been completely banned from working.

Gypsy Gullen Kaiser (Gypsy Guillén Kaiser Advocacy and Communications Director, Committee to Protect Journalists) of the Committee to Protect Journalists in this regard, said: “We see an absolute deterioration in the media environment in Afghanistan, but this was preceded by the problems of the previous period. . We must therefore respect and support the incredible resilience of Afghan journalists. However, at least three journalists are currently imprisoned in Afghanistan. It hadn’t happened in 12 years.”

Afghanistan has lost at least 40% of its independent media and 60% of its journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders. In addition to self-censorship, media representatives are under constant pressure from various structures of the Taliban regime, from intelligence to the local governor, confirmed the director of the Voice of America department for South and Central Asia. Aisha Tanzim (Ayesha Tanzeem Director of South and Central Asia Division and Former Afghanistan and Pakistan Bureau Chief, Voice of America):

“[Afghanistan] there is a Ministry of Vice and Virtue, an intelligence agency and any story – any story – can offend even Taliban leaders at the local level. The secret services can call you, they can come to your house and take you away, they can arrest you and detain you for several hours or several months. We have seen it in cases with militants. And it all became a deterrent to the media. And, of course, if you’re a woman, it’s doubly difficult.

For more than a year now, a climate of fear has reigned among the Afghan Taliban among city residents and media workers, said Barry Salam (Barry Salam Senior Program Officer, Afghanistan, US Institute of Peace) expert from the American Institute for Peace: “[Taliban] create an atmosphere of fear among journalists and media workers. According to many organizations that support the independent press, for a year and a half, more than 2,500 cases of detention, harassment, torture, arrests, humiliation and other low blows have been recorded. Today, it is quite difficult for a journalist to go out in the street and talk to people, to the simple inhabitants of the neighborhood. People live in fear and don’t want to share information with the media.

Employees of international humanitarian organizations working in Afghanistan also admit to journalists that they are literally “backed against the wall” by Taliban laws, in particular the ban on working for Afghan women. NGOs say Afghanistan is on the brink of collapse and a food crisis, with half the country’s population starving and 3 million children at risk of malnutrition.

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