Taliban GDI Shuts Down Private Radio Station Kawoon Ghag in Laghman Province

Taliban GDI Shuts Down Private Radio Station Kawoon Ghag in Laghman Province

July 7, 2024

Mehtarlam, Laghman province - The Taliban General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) in eastern Laghman province has shut down the private radio station Kawoon Ghag, which has been operating in the province for about two decades, claiming that it is "property of the government". The Afghanistan Journalists Center expresses deep concern over the incident and calls for the immediate and unconditional reopening of the media.

A local source, who spoke to AFJC on the condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation by local Taliban officials, said that employees of the Laghman Provincial Intelligence Department entered the Kawoon Ghag radio building on July 13 and turned it off. This was reportedly done in the presence of representatives from the local administration and the Information and Culture Department. According to the source, intelligence officials closed the gate of the media and informed its employees that the building and equipment of the media belonged to the government, and therefore everything associated with the media would be confiscated.

Sources in Laghman and Kabul state that the director of Radio Kawoon Ghag, Inqilabi Yousefzai, has lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Information and Culture in Kabul regarding the action taken by the intelligence department. Despite three weeks of closure, his efforts to reopen the radio have been fruitless. The Media Complaints and Violations Commission, led by Khairullah Khairkhah, the Taliban's acting Minister of Information and Culture, is scheduled to investigate the matter this week.

The radio station was established in 2005 in Mehtarlam, the capital of eastern Laghman province, with financial support from InterNews, as stated by Inqilabi Yousufzai, the managing director of Kawoon Ghag radio. He mentioned that equipment for the radio was purchased with the financial assistance of InterNews, and in accordance with an agreement with the local administration, a piece of land was allocated for it and a one-story building was constructed.

According to Inqilabi, a government commission, comprising local influential individuals, and members of civil society, was established to oversee the operations of Radio Kawoon Ghag based on a Memorandum of Understanding between InterNews and the local administration. The radio holds licenses from the Ministries of Information and Culture, Communications and Information Technology, and Industry and Commerce. The Ministry of Industry and Commerce's investment license is issued in the name of Inqilabi Yousafzai, and the Ministry of Communications' license categorizes the radio as "private". Yousafzai confirmed that taxes have been paid continuously based on these licenses. However, the license issued by the Ministry of Information and Culture in 2016 lists the Laghman Scientific and Cultural Association as the owner, with Inqilabi Yousefzai serving as the managing director.

Yousufzai mentioned that the association, which consisted of influential individuals and members of civil society, was dissolved as its members did not renew the license. Per an agreement signed between the association and Internews, if the association were to dissolve, the radio would be transferred to those working there, Yousufzai added

A source from the Laghman local administration informed AFJC that the closure of the radio by the GDI was a temporary measure, stating that the radio was considered to be a "property of the government", and that a decision on how to operate and reopen it would be made soon.

Article 4 of the Afghanistan Media Law, applicable even under the Taliban government, stipulates that no natural or legal person can prevent, sanction, censor, or restrict the free activities of news or information media, or interfere in their affairs and publications. The Afghanistan Journalists Center condemns the shutting down of Kawoon Ghag radio as a clear violation of press freedom. They urge the local Taliban authorities in Laghman to respect the Media Law and promptly allow for the immediate and unconditional reopening of Kawoon Ghag radio.