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New Watchdog Report Shows Media Space Disappearing in Afghanistan 

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – The Afghanistan Journalist Center (AFJC) says that journalists faced significant challenges in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan last year, hindering their ability to work effectively.

In its annual report published on National Journalist’s Day, March 17, AFJC highlighted the deteriorated state of media freedom in Afghanistan during the 1402 solar year (March 2023 to March 2024). According to the report, media professionals experienced severe restrictions on their fundamental rights and legal protections.

Upon reclaiming power in August 2021, the Taliban pledged to uphold freedom of the press; however, the regime has, in practice, imposed extensive restrictions on media activities and journalists, frequently resorting to arrests, imprisonment, and instances of torture.

The ruling regime in Afghanistan prohibits journalists from producing critical reports or incorporating critical public opinions into their daily coverage.

The Taliban’s imposition of media restrictions and pressure on journalists and media workers has resulted in the closure of over half of the country’s media outlets, TV stations, and radio stations.

Earlier this month, the Afghanistan Journalists’ Support Organization (AJSO), a German-based Afghan media watchdog, reported that following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, only 13 out of 91 print newspapers that were operational during the republic government, remain active. Similarly, out of 248 TV channels, only 68 are still in operation, and out of 438 radio stations, 211 are currently active across 34 provinces of the country.

The remaining outlets either relocated outside the country or closed due to Taliban restrictions or financial challenges.

The AFJC’s annual report indicates a surge in pressure on media and journalists compared to previous years, with Taliban directives playing a major role in exacerbating these challenges.

The report further highlights the adverse effects of the Taliban’s unclear guidelines on media production and content, as regime’s officials seldom grant interviews to journalists and its spokespersons are often unavailable to answer questions.

During the previous solar year, AFJC reported documenting at least 139 incidents involving violations of media and journalist rights, including 80 threats and 59 arrests. Although there were no targeted attacks leading to injury or death during this timeframe, the media watchdog recorded eight instances of media work being suspended and cases involving the prosecution and imprisonment of radio station managers.

Currently, according to the report, managers of two local radio stations remain in Taliban custody. One is accused of collaborating with foreign media and being a foreign agent, while the other is accused of engaging in criminal activities. Last year, Taliban local courts sentenced them to one year in prison, and they are still serving their sentences.