Afghanistan: oppressive Taliban regime remains two years after takeover

  • 14 Aug 2023

The Taliban’s continued targeting of journalists has had a damning impact on press freedom in the country.

15 August marks two years since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan. In that period, journalists have faced increased reporting restrictions with many women no longer working as journalists due in part to imposed conditions on positions they can occupy, threats to their safety, harrassment, and lower pay rates than their male counterparts.

Kidnappings, murder, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment have all been recorded since 2021. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reports seven journalists have been killed since the Taliban takeover with 26 arrests and 14 journalists injured. Two years on, the NUJ is renewing its call to Ministers for urgent action to support Afghan journalists and bring them to safety. 

Contributions from NUJ members to the IFJ’s Afghanistan solidarity fund have provide much-needed assistance and support to journalists including for medicines, food, and necessities to those in need. Almost €40,000 was administered by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists to provide respite accommodation for exiled Afghan journalists in Islamabad.

A new report by Afghanistan's National Journalists Union (ANJU) notes there were 2138 women journalists prior to Taliban rule in 2021, with only 389 remaining today. Although the number of male journalists is higher, there has been a 54 per cent reduction from 5608 to 2964 under Taliban rule. 

Government's hostility  towards journalists has significantly impacted media freedom in the country, with those who breach rules often targeted and persecuted. Threats against journalists have led some to flee the country over safety concerns and ANJU states in its report “Between Shadows and Stories: Navigating the Journey of Afghan Journalists”, that assassinations and attacks against journalists “instil a chilling effect on the entire media community.”

This month, Taliban officials closed the Radio Hamisha Bahar’s offices after a mixed-gender journalism course was held on the premises. Efforts to supress reporting are commonplace and have led to a reduction in the number of print newspapers in operation, with 11 operating (online only) compared to 90 in 2021. A 32 per cent reduction in operating radio stations and a 65 per cent decline in the number of news agencies present a media landscape directly impacted by the Taliban’s regime.

ANJU's report states:

Amid the shifting landscape, the role of media as an information conduit underwent profound changes. Before the Taliban's ascendancy, diverse media outlets played a pivotal role in disseminating information, shaping public opinion, and holding those in power accountable.

Journalists and media workers acted as the eyes and ears of the public, ensuring transparency and facilitating dialogue. However, the subsequent decline in media outlets and personnel has raised concerns about the accessibility of accurate and unbiased information.


Tim Dawson, IFJ deputy general secretary, said:

“The destruction of so much of Afghanistan’s free media is among the most striking and shocking consequences of the regime change in that country. What journalists remain face aggravation, attack and arrest. Hundreds of other Afghan media workers are refugees, struggling to survive in other countries.

“If the Taliban government wants to build an open, self-confident country, and to earn international respect, it should act immediately to safeguard the remaining media and ensure that journalists can do their work free from harm and harassment.”

The NUJ has repeatedly called on the UK and Irish governments to provide adequate support to Afghan journalists. Despite committing to do so, the Home Office has failed to publish information on when Pathway 3 of the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) will open, or how long it will remain open for. As some journalists in Afghanistan remain in hiding to ensure the safety of themselves and families, insufficient action by the UK government continues to place journalists in grave danger.

The UK Displaced Journalists Initiative launched by Doughty Street Chambers in partnership with Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB) presents an opportunity for UK and Irish companies to recruit journalists from Afghanistan, with support from the TBB team.

Find out more about Talent Beyond Boundaries and how your organisation can bring skilled Afghan journalists to safety, making good on government’s promises by leading with action.

Journalists still require financial assistance, and the Afghanistan solidarity fund is open to donations

Download the ANJU report.

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