Afghan Journalists Increasingly Harassed By Taliban Intelligence: Media Watchdog

The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Friday strongly condemned the Taliban’s mounting attacks on media outlets as it violated Afghanistan’s press law.

The media watchdog in a statement expressed concern over the surge in threats, summonses for interrogation and arbitrary arrests to which Afghan journalists and media outlets have been subjected for the past two months across Afghanistan.

The RSF had blamed the Taliban intelligence agency known as the “Istikhbarat” and the Ministry for Promoting Virtue and Suppressing Vice for being directly implicated in this harassment.

Among the latest detained journalists was Aslam Hijab, a business reporter for Ariana News TV channel, who was arrested outside his place of work on 31 January.

“When his colleague, Waris Hassra, tried to protest, he was also arrested. Both were taken away by intelligence officers to an unknown destination and were held for 48 hours before being released,” the RSF said in a statement. 

The statement furthered that at least 50 journalists and media workers have been detained briefly or arrested by the police or Istikhbarat since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan on 15 August 2021. 

“These arrests, which are often accompanied by violence, have lasted from several hours to nearly a week,” it added. 

Besides Istikhbarat is directly involved in arresting journalists, RSF said it has also learned that several media outlets have received threatening phone calls and summons for questioning from Istikhbarat officials. 

Javad Sargar, the senior Istikhbarat official in charge of Department 53, which handles the media, recently horrified journalists by “inviting” them to stop covering certain subjects and stop asking certain journalists to participate in TV discussions, “if you don’t want me to rip your tongue out,” it added. 

Head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk, Reza Moini said that “threatening to rip out journalists’ tongues in order to prevent them from covering certain subjects is completely unacceptable.” 

Moini said that journalists “must be able to practice their profession without being under a permanent threat of arrest and torture.” 

Several organizations supporting free media, including the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights called on the Taliban to immediately cease the use of force and arbitrary detention of journalists in Afghanistan.

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