Two TOLONews presenters work with their faces covered in Kabul, on May 22, 2022. (Reuters/Ali Khara)
December 30, 2022
Kabul- The Afghanistan Journalists Center(AFJC) issued its annual report about media freedom in Afghanistan during 2022, on Friday which witnessed an unprecedented increase in incidents of violence and threats to journalists compared to the previous year.
The report finds a deterioration in press freedom in 2022, 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 2022 witnessed a total of 260 violations including threats, detentions, and violent confrontations, which is a sharp 138% increase from 2021. In 2021, at least 109 incidents were recorded, including eight 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 a few cases, most of these 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 2022, at least 119 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 (58) in Kabul, 11 in Kandahar, 11 in Paktia, 7 in Ghazni, and 6 in Faryab, in each province of Herat, Samangan, and Bamiyan 3 incidents, two incidents have been recorded in each province of Parwan, Uruzgan, Logar 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 three journalists including Khaled Qaderi, a former presenter of Nowruz radio in Herat, who was detained on March 17, 2022; freelance journalist Faizullah Faizbakhsh from Kabul on August 17, and Qudratullah Tarar, a reporter for Zarghun TV from Khost on November 11, 2022. Khalid Qaderi has been sentenced to one year in prison by the Herat court for posting his critical view of the Taliban on social media. Faizbakhsh was arrested while shooting at the site where al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri was “killed” in Kabul, and Tarar was arrested for his journalism work and critical posts on social media.
AFJC has recorded 128 incidents of threats to journalists and media in the past 12 months. Less than half of these threat cases (50 cases) have been recorded in Kabul, nine in Nangarhar, eight in Faryab, and seven in each of the Kapisa and Kandahar provinces.
In addition to arrests, in 2022, there were at least 11 separate incidents of physical violence and beatings, four in Kabul, two in Badghis, and one in each of Balkh, Samangan, Takhar, Nangarhar, 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.”