Sunday, December 5

Violent Taliban Attacks on Afghan Journalists Raise Growing Alarm | Afghanistan

A series of violent attacks on Afghan journalists by the Taliban is causing increasing alarm about the freedom of the country’s media, with a high-level journalist declaring that “freedom of the press has ended.”

As images and testimonies circulated internationally of the arrest and brutal flogging of two reporters who were detained covering a women’s rights demonstration in Kabul on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern about the recent series of attacks.

In just two days this week, the Taliban detained and later released at least 14 journalists covering the protests in Kabul, and at least six of these journalists were victims of violence during their arrests or detentions, CPJ reported.

Other journalists, including some who work with the BBC, were also prevented from filming the protest yesterday.

The Taliban authorities also briefly detained a Tolonews Photojournalist Wahid Ahmadi confiscated his camera on Tuesday and prevented other journalists from filming the protest he was covering.

The renewed threats against the media coincided with the announcement by the new Taliban Interior Ministry that it prohibited unauthorized protests.

“The Taliban are quickly proving that past promises to allow Afghanistan’s independent media to continue to operate in freedom and safety are worthless,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.

“We urge the Taliban to follow through on those previous promises, to stop beating and detaining journalists from doing their job and to allow the media to work freely without fear of retaliation.”

The comments were also repeated by Patricia gossman, Associate Director for Asia at Human Rights Watch.

“Taliban authorities reclaimed They would allow the media to function as long as they “respect Islamic values”, but are increasingly preventing journalists from reporting on the demonstrations. The Taliban must ensure that all journalists can carry out their work without abusive restrictions or fear of retaliation. “

A senior Afghan journalist, speaking to The Guardian on condition of anonymity, said that despite assurances from senior Taliban officials that the media could operate freely, the reality on the ground was that journalists were clashing increasing threats from local members of the Taliban.

“There is a big difference between the Taliban in the media and the Taliban on the street,” the journalist said.

“These Taliban on the street are local people, they have no understanding and they are very strict. What the top officials say is not acceptable to the local Taliban. They were fighting and they have no education.

“The Taliban on the ground have beaten journalists in Kabul and elsewhere. I have many years of experience in journalism and I believe that journalism freedoms have ended in Afghanistan … People cannot criticize the Taliban in the media. “

The comments came as 200 Americans and other foreigners flew out of Kabul on Thursday after the new Taliban government agreed to its evacuation flight, the first since the end of US-led airlift ended.

The departures are the first international flights to take off from Kabul airport since the end of the chaotic US-led evacuation of 124,000 foreigners and Afghans at risk.

Evidence of an increase in attacks against the media was dramatized by the beating of two reporters from Etilaat Roz (Information Daily) who were arrested while covering a protest for women’s rights in Kabul.

Images of the two men’s injuries, including large welts and bruises on their back, were widely shared on social media.

According to one of the two, Nematullah Naqdi, a photographer, the couple were taken to a police station in the capital, where they say they were beaten and beaten with batons, electric cables and whips after being accused of organizing the protest.

“One of the Taliban put a foot on my head and smashed my face against the concrete. They kicked me in the head… I thought they were going to kill me, ”said Nematullah Naqdi, a photographer.

Naqdi said that he and his colleague Taqi Daryabi, a reporter, had been approached by a Taliban fighter as soon as he began taking pictures at the protest.

“They told me, ‘You can’t film,'” he said. “They arrested everyone who was filming and took their phones.”

“The Taliban started insulting me, kicking me,” Naqdi said, adding that he was accused of being the organizer of the demonstration. He asked why they beat him and was told: “You are lucky you were not beheaded.”

The barrage of assaults has closely followed the Taliban’s announcement of a new government on Tuesday, which was seen as a sign that they were not seeking to broaden their base and present a more tolerant face to the world, as they had suggested. would do before his military takeover.

Foreign countries greeted the interim government with caution and dismay on Wednesday. In Kabul, dozens of women took to the streets in protest.

Many critics called on leaders to respect basic human rights and revive the economy, which faces collapse amid high inflation, food shortages and the prospect of foreign aid declining as countries seek to isolate. the Taliban.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that no one in the Biden administration “would suggest that the Taliban are respected and valued members of the global community.”

Longer-term aid would depend on the Taliban respecting basic freedoms, he added.

The new acting cabinet includes former detainees from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, while Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani is wanted by the United States on terrorism charges and has a $ 10 million reward (7 , 25 million pounds sterling).

His uncle, with a $ 5 million reward, is a minister for refugees and repatriation.

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