UNAMA calls on Taliban to respect freedom of expression amid media crackdown

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has urged the Taliban to uphold the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, following the arrest of several journalists in the country.

In a Thursday post on X, formerly known as Twitter, UNAMA stated that the Taliban have arrested media workers in six provinces of Afghanistan in the past ten days. The organization did not give details about the number of journalists arrested or their condition.

UNAMA added that in addition, Mortaza Behboudi, an Afghanistan-born French journalist, and Matiullah Wesa, an education activist, have been in Taliban custody since the beginning of this year.

“UNAMA reminds the de facto authorities of their obligations under international law to respect, uphold and promote rights to freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the rights of all who are detained to see their family, meet with a lawyer and know the charges against them,” UNAMA stated.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has also said that nine journalists have been arbitrarily arrested by the Taliban security forces in the past ten days.

In a statement on Wednesday, RSF called for the unconditional release of all journalists from Taliban custody.

“The nine journalists arrested in this chilling crackdown are Faqir Mohammad Faqirzai, Jan Agha Saleh, Haseeb Hassas, Habib Sarab, Sayed Wahdatullah Abdali, Shamsullah Omari, Wahidrahman Afghanmal, Ataullah Omar and Parwiz Sargand,” RSF stated.

According to RSF, the journalists were arrested in five provinces of Afghanistan without any reason being given and they are held in unknown locations.

“Fear and uncertainty now reign in Afghanistan. Two years after a new regime was established, these arrests have again given the lie to the assurances that certain Taliban officials gave about respecting press freedom,” RSF’s South Asia desk was quoted in the statement.

“The record on violations of the right to information is appalling, and the regime is fully responsible. RSF urges the competent Taliban authorities to immediately order the release of the detained journalists and to finally and truly guarantee press freedom,” RSF’s South Asia desk added.

The Afghanistan Journalists Center and the International Federation of Journalists have also expressed their concern about the new wave of arresting journalists in the country and demanded the immediate release of the detained journalists from Taliban custody.