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Human Rights Watch raises concern over Taliban crackdown on Afghan media

News Agencies | Updated on: 23 November 2021, 9:37 IST

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday (local time) raised concerns regarding the imposition of strict new media guidelines in Afghanistan by the Taliban that especially harm women.

The HRW in a statement said Taliban intelligence officials have issued death threats against journalists who have criticized Taliban officials and have required journalists to submit all reports for approval before publication.

New guidelines from the Vice and Virtue Ministry dictate the dress of female journalists on television and prohibit soap operas and entertainment programs featuring female actors, the rights group said.

"The Taliban's new media regulations and threats against journalists reflect broader efforts to silence all criticism of Taliban rule," said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at HRW.

"The disappearance of any space for dissent and worsening restrictions for women in the media and arts is devastating."

Several journalists said that they have been summoned by local officials immediately after publishing reports on Taliban abuses. One journalist who had reported complaints about Taliban searching houses and beating people said that the deputy governor called him into his office and told him that if he broadcast anything like that again, "He would hang me in the town square."

Other media staff have reported that heavily armed Taliban intelligence officials visited their offices and warned journalists not to use the word "Taliban" in their reporting but to refer to the "Islamic Emirate" in all publications. 

Last week, the Taliban's Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice prohibited broadcasting any films deemed to be "against Islamic or Afghan values," along with soap operas and dramas featuring women actors, and made the hijab - a head covering exposing the face - compulsory for women television journalists.

The Taliban have also pressed the media, especially in the provinces, to publish the reports they want and have ordered journalists in some instances to interview them, the rights group said. One journalist said: "After they threatened us with death, we published what they said. Now we broadcast Quranic verses at the beginning of the programs and naat [Islamic songs] because we fear for our safety."

Many media outlets have closed their offices out of fear and are publishing only online.

"Despite the Taliban's promises to allow media that 'respected Islamic values' to function, the reality for Afghanistan is that journalists live in fear of a knock on the door or a summons from the authorities," Gossman said.


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First published: 23 November 2021, 9:37 IST