Photo: TOLOnews

UN Calls for Support and Protection of Afghan Journalists on World Press Freedom Day

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – On World Press Freedom Day, the UN calls for support and protection of Afghan journalists, highlighting their dedication to keeping the nation informed despite facing significant risks.

In a social media post on Friday, May 3, Roza Otunbayeva, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and head of UNAMA, paid tribute to journalists across Afghanistan. She acknowledged their courage in reporting the news, often at great personal risk.

“Their work is essential for an informed and prosperous nation,” Otunbayeva stated, emphasizing the importance of education, healthcare, and good governance for all Afghans. “They must be celebrated, supported, and protected.”

Meanwhile, the UN Women office in Afghanistan highlighted the critical role of media initiatives and women journalists in advancing women’s rights and gender equality. The agency noted in a social media post that 80% of women journalists in Afghanistan have had to stop working due to Taliban restrictions, harassment, and intimidation.

Following the Taliban’s return to power, Afghanistan’s once-thriving free press sector has suffered a devastating collapse. Dozens of outlets have been silenced, forcing thousands of journalists and media workers to flee the country.

The media outlets and journalists who remain in the country face stringent working conditions, mandated to adhere strictly to a set of media guidelines introduced by the Taliban upon reclaiming power in 2021. These directives, numbering over 17 in the past three years, severely restrict media freedom, information flow, and content production.

Some of these directives specifically target women. They prohibit female journalists from working in national radio and television, enforce gender segregation in media workplaces, and even ban broadcasting female voices and phone calls in certain provinces.

The 2024 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Afghanistan under Taliban control as 178th out of 180 countries, just above Syria and Eritrea. RSF’s report, released on May 3rd, declared Afghanistan one of the ten most dangerous countries for media personnel due to ongoing persecution by the Taliban.

Over the past nearly three years, dozens of journalists and media workers have been detained, tortured, and even killed in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Journalist Center (AFJC) documented 136 incidents of media freedom violations in 2023, including 72 threats and 64 arrests.

While no journalists were physically harmed or killed in 2023, the AFJC reports a significant increase in Taliban interference through the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) and the Ministry of Virtue and Vice.