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Human rights groups are worried over Taliban’s crackdown on Afghan media

TalibanBULENT KILIC : AFP via Getty Images

Taliban intelligence officers have issued death threats against journalists who have criticized Taliban officials, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), and journalists must submit all reports for permission before publishing, according to HRW.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed worry on Monday (local time) over the Taliban’s enforcement of draconian new media limits in Afghanistan, which disproportionately hurt women. In a statement, Human Rights Watch said Taliban intelligence officers have issued death threats to journalists who have criticized Taliban officials and have demanded that all reports be approved before publishing. According to the rights group, new guidelines from the Vice and Virtue Ministry prescribe the attire of female journalists on television and prohibit soap operas and amusement shows with female actresses.

“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.”Local officials summoned several journalists after they published reports on Taliban brutality, according to several journalists. According to one journalist who reported on Taliban raids on homes and beatings, the deputy governor summoned him to his office and threatened to “hang me in the town square” if he broadcasted something similar again.

Other journalists have said that heavily armed Taliban intelligence agents visited their offices and instructed them not to use the term “Taliban” in their reportage, instead referring to the “Islamic Emirate.” The Taliban’s Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice banned the broadcasting of any films deemed to be “against Islamic or Afghan values,” as well as soap operas and dramas starring women actors, and made the hijab – a head covering that exposes the face – mandatory for female television journalists last week.

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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