Afghanistan: Free press under attack as Taliban raids homes of journalists

TALIBAN fighters have raided at least four homes belonging to journalists and assaulted two since seizing power on Sunday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) disclosed on Wednesday.

Three employees of the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle were among those raided and the news medium is now working with the German Foreign Ministry to facilitate the evacuation of its employees and families from the country.

“Separately, CPJ is investigating news reports today that Taliban militants beat at least two journalists in the city of Jalalabad, in eastern Nangarhar province, while they were covering a protest against the militant group’s takeover.

“Yesterday (Tuesday), Taliban militants searched the home of a freelance journalist and interpreter who formerly worked with freelance U.S. journalist Wesley Morgan, according to Morgan, who spoke with CPJ via phone, and screenshots of security footage outside the home, which CPJ reviewed,” the committee said in a statement.

CPJ’s Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler urged the Taliban to uphold its public commitment to allow a free and independent media at a time when Afghanistan’s people desperately needed accurate news and information.

In the first official news conference held on Tuesday in Kabul by the Taliban since the takeover, Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that under their regime, private media outlets could continue to be free and independent in accordance with the provisions of Islam and urged journalists to refrain from working ‘against national values.’

Butler emphasised, “The Taliban must cease searching the homes of journalists, commit to ending the use of violence against them, and allow them to operate freely and without interference.”

On Tuesday, CPJ’s Executive director Joel Simon called on the United States to ensure the safety of Afghan journalists, including facilitating their safe passage out of the country and providing emergency visas.

Previously, on August 9, suspected Taliban militants had kidnapped Nematullah Hemat, a reporter for the privately owned news channel Gharghasht TV, and shot and killed Toofan Omar, a manager of the privately owned radio station Paktia Ghag Radio, as CPJ documented at the time.

Hemat’s whereabouts remain unknown as of today, according to a person familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal from the Taliban.

Many Afghans believe the Taliban would put up a façade in the first few days after seizing power as adherents to international standards of press freedom in order to gain public trust and support.

“It would just be counterproductive for them to openly attack journalist,” one resident remarked.

Three dead, several injured as Taliban fire shots during protest in Jalalabad






     

     

    The fear of many Afghans is slowly becoming a reality as Taliban fighters have also been accused of firing warning shots and attacking people with batons to break up a protest at Pashtunistan Square, Jalalabad on Wednesday.

    Following the chaos which resulted as people scampered for safety, three persons reportedly died in a stampede, while several others were injured.

    Witnesses said the shooting followed an attempt by local residents to install Afghanistan’s national flag at the Pashtunistan Square.

    “There were some troublemakers who wanted to create issues for us,” a Taliban militant present in Jalalabad at the time of the incident told Reuters. “These people are exploiting our relaxed policies.”

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