Photo: Ariana News

Watchdog Worries Over Taliban’s Tightening Grip on Journalists, Especially Women

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says that the Taliban regime is mounting restrictions on journalists and media workers, particularly targeting female journalists. 

In a statement released  on Thursday, March 14, RSF said that the Taliban’s repression continues to intensify and it specifically targets women’s access to the media, whether as journalists or as listeners and spectators.

The media watchdog calls on the Taliban supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada to put an end to these repressive measures. 

Since their takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban have imposed increasing restrictions on journalists and media workers in the country, issuing multiple directives that severely limit freedom of the press and access to information.

In RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, Afghanistan under Taliban control was ranked 152nd out of 180 countries.

Female journalists have faced more restrictions than their male counterparts. Report indicates that  95% of the media outlets have witnessed the departure of their female employees. Those who remain active are grappling with numerous restrictions, leading some to abandon their jobs and professions.

According to the Afghanistan Journalists’ Support Organization (AJSO), a German-based Afghan media watchdog, there are currently no female journalists or media workers in 19 provinces.    .

The International Media Support Organization (IMS) says that the Taliban do not allow women journalists to participate in press conferences or be present at the scene of events. The organization further notes that the Taliban’s spokespersons frequently refuse to respond to phone calls from women journalists and often decline to conduct interviews with them.

Recently, the Taliban Minister for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the group’s religious police, warned female journalists and media workers of a potential complete ban on their work in media unless they adhere to the regime’s strict dress code, which requires them to fully cover their faces.

Last month, the Taliban police chief in the eastern province of Khost banned young girls from appearing on radio and television educational programs. Additionally, the regime has prohibited the broadcast of women’s voices and phone calls in certain provinces.

On February 18th, the Taliban governor for southern Kandahar province, Mullah Shirin Akhund, issued a written order to officials and soldiers in the province, instructing them not to permit the taking of photographs and videos during their meetings.

“The silencing of the voices of female listeners and viewers in Khost, the ban on images of officials in Kandahar and the drastic dress restrictions on women journalists in the country are all worrying signs of the Taliban’s ideological hardening, aimed particularly at women journalists,” stated RSF in its statement.

“At a time when journalists are already under the yoke of severe repression, censorship and self-censorship, new regional restrictions, which could extend to the rest of the country, and national restrictions are further destroying the Afghan media landscape,” it added.