Journalists in Afghanistan say press freedom threatened under Taliban

© Kyodo News

Press freedom in Afghanistan is under serious threat from the Taliban as reporters have been beaten by the militant Islamists despite their pledge to protect media freedom, Afghan journalists have said.

Around 20 local journalists and activists gathered in Kabul on Friday and called for the international community to secure their safety under the rule of the Taliban which regained control of Afghanistan on Aug. 15.

"Journalists before the takeover were at peace," a Kabul-based journalist who joined the gathering said. "But many of our brothers and sisters in the profession have been threatened and many fear that they may face serious threats from the Islamic Emirate."

Reporters have been beaten by Taliban soldiers for no reason, the 29-year-old journalist said, adding "We want assurance of our security from the current Islamic Emirate."

Since the Taliban took control of the country, many reporters have left Afghanistan amid fear of crackdowns on journalists as the Taliban had severely restricted press freedom the last time they were in power from 1996 to 2001.

The Taliban have said they will acknowledge media freedom. But Taliban fighters who have been hunting a journalist from German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle have shot dead a family member of the journalist as well as severely injuring another, it reported on Aug. 19.

On Thursday, local TV station ToloNews reported that one of its reporters and his cameraman were beaten the previous day by Taliban fighters in Kabul while they were reporting on jobless people and laborers in the capital city.

Ziar Yaad, the reporter, said Taliban fighters came and took his mobile phone and the camera of the photographer, according to the report.

"We showed our reporter badges but they came and slapped us and beat us with their guns," Yaad was quoted as saying in the report.

Many journalists who were concerned for their security have already left Afghanistan.

According to Reporters Without Borders, an international media watchdog group, around 100 privately-owned local media outlets in Afghanistan have suspended operations since the Taliban takeover.

At a press conference on Aug. 17, a spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the group would guarantee activities by the media within their cultural frameworks, adding that Islamic values should be taken into account in coverage, according to a report by the Al Jazeera news network.

But the spokesman was unclear about women working in the media when responding to a question from a reporter. During their former rule, the Islamist group restricted women's rights to education and employment.

Since the Taliban takeover, female anchors have nearly disappeared in TV programs.