Taliban Bans Photography in Kandahar, Raising Alarms Over Information Access

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – In a move that has sparked concerns over diminishing media freedom, the acting governor of Kandahar province, Molla Shirin Akhund, issued a directive on February 18, 2024, prohibiting photography and filming in a meetings involving local officials.

The Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) expressed concerns about the implications this decision holds for the province’s press. This marks the 16th media-related directive imposed by Taliban officials since their return to power in August 2021.

The AFJC, a watchdog for media rights, deems the prohibition on taking photos and filming of Taliban meetings in Kandahar as ‘unlawful and severely regressive.’ In a statement released today,     February 19th, the centre asserts that this directive ‘intensifies restrictions on freedom of expression, increases self-censorship, and significantly reduces media access to information’ in Kandahar.

The AFJC called for an immediate review of this directive. Citing local reporters in Kandahar, the AFJC said that the directive is being enforced, with Taliban officials refraining from video interviews since its issuance. This directive aligns with the Taliban’s consistent efforts to restrict freedom of expression and media, marking the sixteenth of its kind.

Highlighting the potential consequences of this order, AFJC emphasized that it not only infringes upon freedom of expression but also leads to increased self-censorship and severely restricts media access to vital information in Kandahar.

According to AFJC, local and military officials are instructed to refrain from allowing photography and filming in their gatherings, urging them to publish work reports solely in written or audio form. Journalists on the ground have reported difficulties in conducting interviews with local officials following the directive.

Urgently calling for the immediate reversal of this decision, the AFJC stresses the importance of safeguarding freedom of speech and upholding the legal rights of journalists in the province.

The Taliban government, having previously acknowledged the Afghanistan Media Law prohibiting interference in media activities, faces criticism for this latest move.

This development raises concerns among media professionals. They worry that such restrictions could lead to a further tightening of the space for independent journalism in Kandahar.