IWPC strongly condemns ‘targeted killing of journalists’ in Afghanistan by Taliban

New Delhi : The Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) has strongly condemned the targeted killing of journalists and their relatives in Afghanistan by the Taliban and has called upon the international community to make every effort “to stop this barbarity”.

In a statement, the IWPC expressed deep concern over the rising incidences of the killing and harassment of media persons in Afghanistan by the Taliban.

There have been reports of kidnappings, killing and threatening journalists in Afghanistan — Afghan nationals working for foreign media as well as those working for local television, newspapers and radio stations are being targeted.

There are also reports of the Taliban going house to house to look for journalists, and lists are being compiled with details about them to hunt them down. Foreign journalists, particularly women, are being intimidated and threatened on the roads, it said.

This is deeply disturbing and contradictory to the statement made by the Taliban in its first press conference in which it had assured that the media will continue to be free and independent. However, this is not happening.

Ever since the Taliban has come to power, women journalists have been censored, prohibited from doing their journalistic work or replaced with men in newsrooms. Not adhering to this prohibition may mean death for them and their loved ones.

“We expect the Taliban to keep its word and protect the freedom of press and not harass journalists, particularly women, and allow the media to do its work freely,” the IWPC said.

“The IWPC strongly condemns the targeted killing of journalists and their relatives in Afghanistan by the Taliban and calls upon the international community to make every effort to stop this barbarity,” it said.

Earlier, the Committee to Protect Journalists in a statement on Thursday had said the Taliban must immediately cease harassing and attacking journalists for their work, allow women journalists to broadcast the news, and permit the media to operate freely and independently.

It said since August 15, members of the Taliban have barred at least two female journalists from their jobs at the public broadcaster Radio Television Afghanistan, and have attacked at least two members of the press while they covered a protest in the eastern Nangarhar province, according to news reports and journalists who spoke with CPJ.

“Stripping public media of prominent women news presenters is an ominous sign that Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have no intention of living up their promise of respecting women’s rights, in the media or elsewhere,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The Taliban should let women news anchors return to work, and allow all journalists to work safely and without interference.”

On August 15, the day the Taliban entered Kabul, members of the group arrived at Radio Television Afghanistan’s station and a male Taliban official took the place of Khadija Amin, an anchor with the network, according to news reports and Amin, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.

When Amin returned to the station yesterday, a Taliban member who took over leadership of the station told her to “stay at home for a few more days,” and said the group would inform her when she can return to work, she said.

Taliban members also denied Shabnam Dawran, a news presenter with Radio Television Afghanistan, entry to the outlet, saying that “the regime has changed” and she should “go home,” according to news reports and Dawran, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

Male employees were permitted entry into the station, but she was denied, according to those sources. On August 17, a Taliban-appointed newscaster took her place and relayed statements from the group’s leadership, according to those reports.

Separately, Taliban militants on August 18 beat Babrak Amirzada, a video reporter with the privately owned news agency Pajhwok Afghan News, and Mahmood Naeemi, a camera operator with the privately owned news and entertainment broadcaster Ariana News, while they covered a protest in the city of Jalalabad, in eastern Nangarhar province, according to news reports and both journalists, who spoke with CPJ via phone and messaging app.

At about 10 a.m., a group of Taliban militants arrived at a demonstration of people gathering in support of the Afghan national flag, which Amirzada and Naeemi were covering, and beat up protesters and fired gunshots into the air to disperse the crowd, the journalists told CPJ.

Amirzada and Naeemi said that Taliban fighters shoved them both to the ground, beat Amirzada on his head, hands, chest, feet, and legs, and hit Naeemi on his legs and feet with the bottoms of their rifles. CPJ could not immediately determine the extent of the journalists’ injuries.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment via messaging app.

CPJ is also investigating a report today by German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle that Taliban militants searched the home of one of the outlet’s editors in western Afghanistan, shot and killed one of their family members, and seriously injured another. The militants were searching for the journalist, who had escaped to Germany, according to that report.