Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday said media in Afghanistan is facing "far-reaching censorship" and "violence," stressing that the situation is much worse in districts and provincial centers compared to Kabul and big urban centers.
HRW's report said it has conducted interviews since November 2021 and has spoken with 24 journalists and other media workers in 17 provinces. The findings show that journalists’ activities are restricted in the country, drastically limiting critical reporting.
According to HRW, the use of violence against journalists has compelled them to self-censorship in the provinces. “Many journalists have felt compelled to self-censor and report only Taliban statements and official events. Women journalists have faced the most intense repression,” HRW said.
The report further says that around 80 percent of women journalists across Afghanistan have lost their jobs or left the profession since last August, and hundreds of media outlets have closed. “Journalists in each of these provinces said the Taliban actively monitor their publications and compel them to share the content of their reports with the provincial Directorate of Information and Culture before publication,” HRW’s report said.
In addition to restrictions, Afghan media are facing serious financial challenges which has also been one of the key reasons for closure of many outlets.
In late February, the Afghanistan Journalists and Media Organizations Federation (AJMOF) voiced its concerns on economic challenges facing the media, saying if immediate attention is not paid to the media's financial problems, no media outlet will remain active in the next six months in the country.
On Thursday, the Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) in a press conference called on the World Bank to pay out money earmarked for media the Dastarkahan-e-Milli program.
“During the past two weeks, first we lost the Tajala Radio in Maidan Wardak. Its door has closed, it lost its journalists and its journalists started drudge work which is not even provided in Afghanistan, and they have to go to Iran and Pakistan,” said Hujatullah Mujaddidi, head of the AIJA.
Amid reports on restrictions against the media, the Islamic Emirate, however, maintains that it supports media in the country. Abdulhaq Emad, head of the publication department of the Ministry of Information and Culture, speaking at the AJMOF press conference said the ministry is working to resolve the challenges facing the media. “We need to continue and stay patient for six months, only six months. We will get out of this crisis,” he said.
Islamic Emirate spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, reacting to similar critical reports, has said the Islamic Emirate is committed to supporting media. “The Islamic Emirate is committed to freedom of the press. The media also has an obligation to stay impartial and remain committed to religious and national values,” he had said in a tweet in February.