Media in Afghanistan Huddle in Fear and Self-Censorship
With the collapse of the government on August 15, 2021, the situation of the media changed dramatically.
Afghan Voice Agency (AVA)_Afghanistan has had a good experience in freedom of expression and information since 2001. In the last twenty years, hundreds of mass media have been operating freely in this country. Despite many problems, the republican system provided an opportunity for free media activity. The presence of the international community ensured journalists’ safety. In the light of the law, media outlets, with impartial information and pressure, forced politicians to be accountable to the people. Investigative reporters exposed the corruption of the authorities, and media outlets took a firm stand against fundamentalism and terrorism through criticism and questioning.
With the collapse of the government on August 15, 2021, the situation of the media changed dramatically. The Taliban quickly reached out to the media in the early days of their presence in as they seized the presidential palace and other government offices. Putting pressure on media to change their publishing policies, disarming media outlets’ security guards, repealing laws including the Access to Information Act, introducing strict procedures on how the media operates, banning coverage of protests and beatings, and detaining and interrogating journalists are the measures taken over the past five months.
Repression and economic hardship have caused many media outlets to collapse. Female have lost their jobs. Many media outlets, under constant pressure from the Taliban, change their publishing policies and operate with self-censorship. Media reporters who have little contact with the Taliban are summoned and interrogated daily by the Taliban-led government’s intelligence service. What is most visible in Afghanistan’s media today is self-censorship and fear. Reporters do not feel safe.
The Taliban have not recognized media freedom, despite widespread protests by journalists and media outlets. The group has restricted media freedom through a legislative approach to information. Afghanistan’s Free Speech Hub (FSH) said in its latest statement that the media is being systematically censored by the Taliban’s intelligence service. The statement said that the Taliban’s intelligence directorate, using force, threats, and pressure, was trying to turn all of Afghanistan’s free media into its propaganda platform, which, according to the agency, “unfortunately has succeeded to some extent.”. In addition to Free Speech Hub, many media outlets and journalists have raised this concern, warning of the destruction of media freedom.
So far, however, the Taliban have ignored the protests. With each passing day, they increase the pressure on the media and go from drafting the procedure to the phase of “commanding and forbidding” and threatening journalists. The legislative view is the Taliban’s dominant approach to everything, especially the media. In a situation where Afghanistan faces unprecedented challenges, the Taliban scramble to censor media outlets. This fact is very naked and can be seen in all the stances and behavior of Taliban leaders, regarding the media.
With the fall of the previous government, national institutions collapsed. Many achievements were lost and, the people of Afghanistan fell into the grip of devastating and unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe. In such a situation, when the possibility of free media activity in the country is eliminated, violence and repression will increase, and the ruling group will not respond to the people of Afghanistan.
In such a situation, just publishing a declaration is not enough. International organizations and countries around the world should make every effort to protect the achievements of the Afghan people, including freedom of expression and information. The media is under increasing pressure from the Taliban. If the world does not stand by Afghanistan’s journalists, the continuation of a free flow of information in the country will be impossible.