The Challenge of Journalism in Afghanistan

Published On: August 21, 2023Categories: Fact Check

In the past two weeks, the Taliban have detained at least nine journalists and media personnel. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has stated that the Taliban have arrested these journalists from six provinces of the country.

Sources said these journalists have been transferred to Kabul and are being held in custody.

The detention of journalists has raised concerns about journalism work in Afghanistan.

“UNAMA reminds the de facto authorities of their obligations under international law to respect, uphold and promote rights to freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the rights of all who are detained to see their family, meet with a lawyer and know the charges against them.”  UNAMA said in a newsletter.

Aside from the clear deterrents of being jailed for journalism, there are other realities that seem less extreme than the physical risk but which are no less challenging.  

Media Restrictions in Afghanistan

All journalists, especially Afghan news photographers, are not allowed to operate outside of their own media outlets. 

Based on the contracts between media and their official employees, no journalist or photographer can work for a second media outlet – this is standard internationally.

Independent journalists must obtain activity permits from the Taliban’s Ministry of Information and Culture. New restrictions have also been imposed on YouTubers’ work in Afghanistan. They require permits from the Taliban’s Ministry of Information and Culture to operate, and their activities are monitored.

Preventing Coverage of Women’s Protests

Journalists and media outlets in Afghanistan are restricted in covering protests, particularly women’s protests, and they cannot report on all demonstrations.

Several journalists from various media outlets have confirmed to Chalawsaf that the Taliban have informed them that they cannot report on protests that are not coordinated with Taliban authorities.

In the past two years, multiple journalists from local media outlets who attempted to take photos and video of women’s protests have been detained by the Taliban, and later released.

Utilizing Local Journalists

Media outlets reporting on Afghanistan from the West, particularly those classified as “exiled media,” especially those broadcasting visual reports, need to acquire footage from within Afghanistan.

Due to their lack of official accreditation in Afghanistan, these outlets are unable to formally hire local journalists and photographers. Consequently, they rely on journalists already operating within the country, often associated with local media, to provide content that tries to showcase the media outlet’s presence in Afghanistan.

Five journalists and photographers from local media outlets have confirmed to Chalawsaf that employees of these “exiled media” organizations have requested them to send footage on their behalf. This implies a clandestine and unofficial attempt by these outlets to employ local media personnel.

Three officials within local media outlets criticize these practices of “exiled media,” arguing that it reflects unprofessional conduct. These officials have communicated to Chalawsaf their reluctance to have their resources and facilities exploited by other media outlets.

Detentions Due to Collaboration with Media Operating Abroad

Sources have informed Chalawsaf that recently detained journalists have been arrested due to their collaboration with certain media outlets operating abroad.

The Taliban have not granted permission for the operation of these foreign media outlets so far. Consequently, these outlets are clandestinely employing personnel from local media for their activities.

Sources report that journalists from Amu TV and the daily newspaper Etelaat Roz are among those detained.

An official from Amu TV has confirmed the detention of his colleagues in Afghanistan. However, the newspaper “Etelaat Roz” does not provide detailed information on this matter.

A Taliban official regarding the arrested journalists states that these individuals were detained with the aim of gathering information and have no affiliation with their media work.

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