HRW: Taliban deliberately target journalists

HRW: Taliban deliberately target journalists and women in media

The Taliban forces “deliberately” target journalists and other media workers, including women, in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement issued today, April 01. It further said that the increased violence against journalists has heightened concerns about preserving freedom of expression and media in any peace settlement.

“Human Rights Watch found that Taliban commanders and fighters have engaged in a pattern of threats, intimidation, and violence against members of the media in areas where the Taliban have significant influence, as well as in Kabul,” the HRW noted. According to this international human rights watch, the Taliban provincial and district–level commanders and fighters threaten the Afghan journalists orally and in written messages even beyond their areas of control.

“A wave of threats and killings has sent a chilling message to the Afghan media at a precarious moment as Afghans on all sides get set to negotiate free speech protections in a future Afghanistan,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director. “By silencing critics through threats and violence, the Taliban have undermined hopes for preserving an open society in Afghanistan.”

The HRW has interviewed 46 members of media, including four journalists who have already left Afghanistan, between November 2020 and March 2021 in Badghis, Ghazni, Ghor, Helmand, Kabul, Kandahar, Khost, Wardak, and Zabul provinces.

According to the HRW, the Taliban officials at their political office in Doha, Qatar, deny threats by their fighters against the media saying they require only that journalists respect Islamic values. But, as the HRW has found, the militant’s commanders have the autonomy to carry out punishments, including targeted killing, against journalists throughout Afghanistan, even for their reporting.

The humanitarian organization called on the Taliban leadership to “immediately” cease violence against journalists and other media workers. It also asks the group’s leadership to issue “public directives” to all Taliban members to end all forms of violence against journalists.

The United Nations and governments supporting the Intra-Afghan Negotiations should publicly press the Taliban leadership to adopt these recommendations and provide increased support, including protection, to independent media organizations and journalists in Afghanistan, especially those facing threats.

Afghanistan has seen a dramatic rise in targeted violence, particularly against journalists, ever since the United States signed a peace deal with the Taliban on February 29, 2020, in Doha.

A total of 11 journalists, including women, were killed and 50 others and media workers were wounded over the past 1399 solar year, according to figures recently provided by some media organizations.