Photo: Afghanistan Journalist Center

Taliban Frees Three Journalists After Six Days

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – The Afghanistan Journalist Center (AFJC) reports that the Taliban have released three local journalists who were detained in eastern Khost province on Monday, April 21. The journalists were arrested on charges of airing music and answering phone calls from women audiences.

In a statement issued on Sunday, April 28, the AFJC welcomed the release of the journalists, asserting that their detention violated Afghanistan’s media law and emphasizing that they should never have been detained.

AFJC reported last Wednesday that Ismail Sadat from Naz Radio, Vahidullah Masoom from Iqra Radio, and Ehsanullah Tasal from Wolas Ghag Radio were arrested by the Taliban. The media watchdog said that the Taliban’s Department of Virtue and Vice in Khost province initially invited the heads of these radios for a meeting, but when the reporters attended on their behalf, they were immediately arrested.

According to AFJC, the Taliban has arrested these journalists on charges of airing music and communicating with a female audience on their programs. The regime’s local authorities in the province had prohibited music and female voices on air, asserting it promotes moral corruption and violates Islamic values.

Since the return of the Taliban, Afghanistan’s once-thriving free-press sector has experienced a near-total collapse, with dozens of outlets being silenced and hundreds of journalists and media professionals forced to flee the country.

Numerous media outlets have shuttered either due to Taliban restrictions or financial issues, while many others have relocated outside the country. Some Afghan journalists have started media startups or launched their own YouTube channels abroad. Those who remain in Afghanistan or neighboring countries confront persistent threats and escalating safety concerns.

Over the past nearly three years, dozens of journalists and media workers have been detained, tortured, and in some instances killed. AFJC reports that it has documented 168 incidents involving violations of journalists’ rights in Afghanistan in 2023, with 61 of them being arrests of journalists and media workers.

The Taliban’s media restrictions have specifically targeted female journalists and media workers, with the regime mandating that female journalists and guests cover their faces, leaving only their eyes visible on TV. In some provinces, they have even banned radio stations from airing women’s voices.

Since the return of the Taliban to power, the publication of music in the media has been banned nationwide. In a new development, the Taliban police chief in Khost Province issued a ban on phone calls from girls to the media in February 2024.

“Girls are engaging in illegal phone calls with the presenters of these programs during official and unofficial hours, leading to moral corruption in society and violating Islamic values.” The Taliban police chief said.

According to the AFJC statement, Taliban local authorities warned the released journalists of potential prosecution if they failed to comply with the regime’s media guidelines, particularly regarding the broadcasting of music or the airing of women’s phone calls on their programs.

The media watchdog called on the local Taliban authorities in Khost province to stop the mass arrests of journalists, which instill fear and self-censorship within the journalism community and impede the operation of media outlets in accordance with the acknowledged media law by the regime.