Photo: Afghanistan International

Watchdog: Taliban’s Boycott of Afghanistan International Network Violates Media Laws

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – The Afghanistan Journalist Center (AFJC) has criticized the Taliban’s imposition of restrictions on the London-based Afghanistan International TV and Radio, saying that it goes against Afghanistan’s media laws.

In a statement released on Thursday, May 9, AFJC called on the Taliban to immediately lift the restrictions and allow Afghan citizens unrestricted access to the media outlet, without fear of reprisal.

On Wednesday, May 8, the Taliban’s media oversight commission, part of the regime’s Ministry of Information and Culture, warned Afghan journalists and experts against working with Afghanistan International, saying that any such engagement would be considered a “criminal act.”

In a social media statement, Khubaib Ghufran, spokesperson for the Taliban Ministry of Information and Culture, claimed that the station had violated professional standards and crossed moral and legal boundaries.

“At the commission’s meeting held on Wednesday May 8, it was decided that participation in discussions and facilitating the broadcast of this media outlet in public places is forbidden,” said Ghufran.

He listed 10 reasons to refrain from engaging with Afghanistan International TV and Radio, including its alleged distortion or falsification of information and campaigning against the ruling regime.

Afghanistan International network, headquartered in London, was established one day before the fall of the Western-backed republic government and the resurgence of the Taliban in power in August 2021. The media network is accessible through satellite, cable, and social media.

In response to the Taliban’s decision, the director of the media network, Harun Najafizada, has said that this decision would not affect the channel because it has no employees or freelancers in Afghanistan.

“We don’t have anyone on the ground and rely on the reporting of Afghan citizens,” said Najafizada. “That’s more challenging, but we have tough verification. It’s a threat to free media, to other media, and to put pressure on us to forgo our professional standards. It’s not going to work.”

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

In a report in March, the Afghanistan Journalist’s Support Organization (AJSO), a German-based Afghan media watchdog, revealed that following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, only 13 out of 91 print newspapers, 68 out of 248 TV channels, and 211 out of 438 radio stations remain operational in the country.

The remaining outlets, as per AJSO report, either relocated outside the country or closed due to Taliban restrictions or financial challenges.

In its statement, AFJC emphasized that the Taliban must refrain from using its media complaint commission as a tool to enforce further censorship on news outlets in Afghanistan and those operating in exile.  

Last month, the Taliban media complaint commission suspended the operations of two private TV stations in Kabul, Noor and Barya, citing their failure to adhere to “national and Islamic values.”

“These restrictions on freedom of information must be lifted promptly, and the commission must handle complaints in accordance with the country’s media regulations,” reads AFJC statement.

“While the prohibition on collaborating with Afghanistan International Television and Radio has been officially announced, AFJC’s investigations reveal that the ban on engaging with exiled Afghan media is not a new phenomenon,” the media watchdog said. “This strategy has been quietly enforced over the past two years, with numerous journalists facing threats, imprisonment, or media outlets being shut down for failing to comply with these directives,” it added.