AFJC: Media Freedom Violations Doubled in Afghanistan During the 1401 Solar year

March 18, 2023

Kabul- The Afghanistan Journalists Center(AFJC) issued its annual report about media freedom in Afghanistan during the 1401 Solar year, which witnessed double compared to the previous year.

The report which was released Today on the occasion of National Journalist’s Day, March 18, finds a deterioration in press freedom, marked by detentions, threats, assaults, and restrictions on media outlets, journalists, and in particular women journalists.

The report’s findings show that media freedom, which had been acquired over the past two decades before the Taliban came to power in mid-August 2021, is rapidly fading. The year 1401(March 20, 2022- March 20, 2023), witnessed a total of 237 violations including threats, detentions, and violent confrontations, which doubled compared with the year 1400. In 1400, at least 117 incidents were recorded, including four deaths of journalists and media workers, as well as the arrest and threats of journalists.

AFJC said in its report, that with the exception of an attack at a press event in Mazar-e-Sharif that killed a reporter and injured 19 other journalists, claimed by the Islamic State group, the rest of the incidents were carried out by agencies or individuals belonging to the Taliban, particularly the police and General Directorate of Intelligence(GDI).

Of the total number of events recorded in the year 1401, at least 94 of them are temporary detentions of journalists from one to several hours and days and several months, the majority of which have been accompanied by physical and psychological violence, insults, and humiliation of detainees.

About half of the arrests of journalists (49) in Kabul, 11 in Paktia, 7 in Fairab, and 6 in Kandahar, in each province of Herat, Samangan, 3 incidents, 2 incidents have been recorded in each province of Uruzgan, Ghazni and Ghor, and 1 in each province of Kapisa, Balkh, Takhar, Nangarhar, Khost, Helmand, Zabul, Farah, and Badghis provinces.

Among the detained journalists are at least two journalists including sports journalist Khairullah Parhar in Jalalabad, and the Afghan-French journalist Mortaza Behboudi are still in prison.  

AFJC has recorded 113 incidents of threats to journalists and media in the past 12 months. 45 cases of these threats have been recorded in Kabul, 9 in Nangarhar, 8 in Faryab, 7 in Kandahar, 6 in Kapisa, 4 in each of the Balkh and Ghazni provinces, and 3 in each province of Ghor, Parwan, Bamian, Samangan, and Badgish, in each province provinces of Herat, Panjshir, Kunduz, Helmand and Sar-e-Pul, 2, and 1 in each province of Logar, Paktika, Kunar, Farah, and Takhar.

In addition to arrests, in the year 1401, there were at least 8 separate incidents of physical violence and beatings, four in Kabul, and one in each of Balkh, Samangan, Nangarhar, Badghis and Zabul provinces, the report stated. At least two incidents have resulted in journalists being wounded in Kabul.

The report indicates over half of Afghanistan’s 600 active media outlets (audio, video, print, and online) have ceased operations and hundreds of journalists and media workers have left the country after the Taliban took power, while women journalists have been marginalized. The Taliban's restrictive directives have opened the way to censorship and persecution, and largely deprive journalists of their independence. Female journalists are largely banned from state-run media outlets, and those in the private sector can appear on TV only if their faces are covered. The report underlines that due to the Taliban’s new rule, access to information is very restricted, and media outlets require to seek permission before publishing. With media no longer able to broadcast music and entertainment programs, sources of advertising revenue have shrunk.

The report also states that the security apparatus of the Taliban, particularly its Intelligence Agency, as well as the Ministry of virtue and vice, have been directly and indirectly conducting a crackdown on media freedom and freedom of expression by arresting, threatening, and scaring journalists.

AFJC said:” We are extremely concerned by the constant dangers Afghan media workers have to face and demand respect of freedom of the press in Afghanistan, as well as an end to all violations of press freedoms” “We call upon the authorities to implement the Afghanistan mass media law and the access to information law and to support free media activities based on these laws.”