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Journalists are targeted by all hardliner regimes, this time in Afghanistan

International media groups and organisations are asking governments to come together and make an “Emergency Plan for Afghan Journalism”

Sabrangindia 20 Aug 2021

RSFImage Courtesy:transparency.org

The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has asked for an urgent “Arria formula” meeting, an informal meeting called by a member of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation of journalists and media in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. They have also asked that an emergency plan for Afghan journalism be drawn up. Afghan journalists, and those of other nationalities working in Afghanistan have become a vulnerable community.

Scenes of CNN's Clarissa Ward being heckled by Taliban fighters, were just the tip of the iceberg. She was reporting on the hurdles Americans and Afghans were facing trying to get to Kabul's airport as Taliban fighters attempted to block access with gunfire and violence. Since then, women journalists have reported that they were stopped from going to work, women news anchors were replaced with male anchors the Taliban would approve of. Women under a Taliban regime are unsafe, and women journalists are the first targets. For that matter, even male journalists may well be on the Taliban’s hit list. 

A month ago, the Indian photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Danish Siddiqui was killed in Kandahar, reportedly by Taliban militants who ascertained his identity before fatally attacking him. And that was much before the Taliban had officially seized control of Afghanistan.

Now journalists and their families are in even bigger danger in Afghanistan. A close relative of a journalist working with the German news group Deutsche Welle (DW) was killed by the Taliban. According to DW, the Taliban were "conducting a house-to-house search" to try and find the journalist, who now works in Germany. They then shot dead one member of his family and injured another. The rest of the family managed to escape. Peter Limbourg, director general of Deutsche Welle, has called on the German government to “take action” against the killing. Limbourg said, "The killing of a close relative of one of our editors by the Taliban yesterday is inconceivably tragic, and testifies to the acute danger in which all our employees and their families in Afghanistan find themselves. It is evident that the Taliban are already carrying out organised searches for journalists, both in Kabul and in the provinces. We are running out of time!"

Based on a report by the RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, the DW had already reported that “Taliban have begun rounding up Afghans on a blacklist of people with suspected links to the previous Afghan administration.” This includes journalists.

The DW has also “joined the Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV), Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, Deutschlandradio, dpa, Reporters Without Borders, stern, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, taz, RTL, n-tv and Arte in publishing an open letter calling on the German government to set up an emergency visa program for Afghan staff.”

According to DW, the Taliban have raided the homes of at least three of its journalists. It also reported that another journalist, “Nematullah Hemat of the private television station Ghargasht TV is believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban, and Toofan Omar, the head of the private radio station Paktia Ghag Radio, was, according to government officials, targeted and shot dead by Taliban fighters.” Also being targeted are translators and others who have worked for or with forgien correspondents based in Afghanistan. Many who returned safely to their home countries have been trying to help their former colleagues and their families leave the country safely. The Taliban is suspected to have already shot and killed translator Amdadullah Hamdard, a frequent contributor to Germany's Die Zeit newspaper, on August 2 in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, reported DW.

According to DW, the German Journalists' Association (DJV) has also asked the German government to take swift action, and give refuge in Germany to stringers who worked for Western media, as they are the most vulnerable. Frank Überall, the DJV chairman said, "Germany must not stand idly by while our colleagues are persecuted and even murdered."

An entire generation of Afghan reporters is at risk

According to the Reporters Without Borders, Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had told them on August 15 that “no threat or reprisal will be carried out against journalists” under the Taliban regime. However those words seem to have evaporated in just a few days. The RSF had reported in 2009, that “The reign of the Taliban from 1996 to 2001 was a dark period in Afghanistan’s history” adding that all media were banned except one, Voice of Sharia, which broadcast nothing but propaganda and religious programmes.

Now, the RSF states that “only a concerted response by governments can address the terrible challenge facing Afghan journalists and media workers today.” It has suggested that leading Afghan journalists be invited to address the Security Council, so that they “have a chance to appeal for the survival of Afghan journalism.” Such a meeting could lay the foundation of an “Emergency Plan for Afghan Journalism”, stated RSF. The plan they suggest could include:

  • Guarantees for the safety and protection of Afghan journalists and media wherever they may be;
  • Help for journalists who want to leave Afghanistan, in particular, simplified procedures for obtaining visas and payment of travel costs;
  • The creation of a fund to cover the immediate needs of Afghan journalists and media wherever they may be;
  • Coordination and consultation with regard to the sustainability of Afghan media outlets and their possible transfer abroad, including to neighbouring countries; 
  • Assistance for Afghan organisations such as the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ) and the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC).
     

The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) has also called upon the international community to “ensure that the rights of women and girls are respected, with special regard to women journalists and media professionals.” It stated that now there is a threat that can “push back decades of hard-won progress for women and girls who are now terrified of a return to a repressive past under the Taliban.” 

Violet Gonda, IAWRT President said, “There are many journalists and female social activists whose lives hang in the balance and whose stories may never be told as the Taliban takes over – once again. These are the brave women who challenged the status quo fighting for fundamental rights, but have been left behind while terror strikes”.  The IAWRT, has called on the following:

  • The current leadership must guarantee the safety of women journalists, media professionals, and activists in Afghanistan.
  • Women’s organisations around the world should join in solidarity to call for the freedom of women journalists, media professionals, and activists in Afghanistan.
  • The international community should immediately facilitate visas for Afghan journalists and media professionals, especially women and their families including elderly dependents and minor children.
  • In light of the rapidly deteriorating situation at the airport and in the city, there should be protection provided for Afghan civilians being airlifted – from their homes till they reach the airport terminal building.
  • The international community must continue its engagement in brokering peace in Afghanistan

Many media outlets have ceased operations in Afghanistan  

It has been reported that around “100 media outlets have stopped operating in recent weeks, while hundreds of journalists have gone into hiding or are trying to flee the country.” Those still working have been doing so “in accordance” with the conditions set by the Taliban. This time too, the control of the media is one of the biggest and most aggressive moves of a hardliner regime, which in the era of social media is more ‘image’ conscious than before. 

The committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said “an entire generation of Afghan reporters” is at risk, it has already “registered and vetted the cases of more than 350 journalists seeking safety as of August 19, and there are more than a thousand cases under review.” The CPJ asked the United States and other countries to “ensure the safety of Afghan journalists by facilitating safe passage out of the country and providing emergency visas.” However, many Afghan Journalists now fear that they “may not be alive by the time help comes” if it comes at all.      

Related:

Afghanistan: The End of the Occupation
Controversial comments on Taliban draw ire
Taliban 2.0: Old laws in newer package?
Zee proposes “Afghanistan Tour Package” for “Tukde-tukde gang”
We want our rights: Afghan women protesters
Hell on Earth
Will Taliban takeover of Afghanistan be used to attack Indian Muslims?
Gov't will help Afghanistan's Sikhs and Hindus to come to India: MEA
Afghan crisis: Women, activists demand immediate ceasefire, protection for civilians

Journalists are targeted by all hardliner regimes, this time in Afghanistan

International media groups and organisations are asking governments to come together and make an “Emergency Plan for Afghan Journalism”

RSFImage Courtesy:transparency.org

The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has asked for an urgent “Arria formula” meeting, an informal meeting called by a member of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation of journalists and media in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. They have also asked that an emergency plan for Afghan journalism be drawn up. Afghan journalists, and those of other nationalities working in Afghanistan have become a vulnerable community.

Scenes of CNN's Clarissa Ward being heckled by Taliban fighters, were just the tip of the iceberg. She was reporting on the hurdles Americans and Afghans were facing trying to get to Kabul's airport as Taliban fighters attempted to block access with gunfire and violence. Since then, women journalists have reported that they were stopped from going to work, women news anchors were replaced with male anchors the Taliban would approve of. Women under a Taliban regime are unsafe, and women journalists are the first targets. For that matter, even male journalists may well be on the Taliban’s hit list. 

A month ago, the Indian photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Danish Siddiqui was killed in Kandahar, reportedly by Taliban militants who ascertained his identity before fatally attacking him. And that was much before the Taliban had officially seized control of Afghanistan.

Now journalists and their families are in even bigger danger in Afghanistan. A close relative of a journalist working with the German news group Deutsche Welle (DW) was killed by the Taliban. According to DW, the Taliban were "conducting a house-to-house search" to try and find the journalist, who now works in Germany. They then shot dead one member of his family and injured another. The rest of the family managed to escape. Peter Limbourg, director general of Deutsche Welle, has called on the German government to “take action” against the killing. Limbourg said, "The killing of a close relative of one of our editors by the Taliban yesterday is inconceivably tragic, and testifies to the acute danger in which all our employees and their families in Afghanistan find themselves. It is evident that the Taliban are already carrying out organised searches for journalists, both in Kabul and in the provinces. We are running out of time!"

Based on a report by the RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, the DW had already reported that “Taliban have begun rounding up Afghans on a blacklist of people with suspected links to the previous Afghan administration.” This includes journalists.

The DW has also “joined the Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV), Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, Deutschlandradio, dpa, Reporters Without Borders, stern, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, taz, RTL, n-tv and Arte in publishing an open letter calling on the German government to set up an emergency visa program for Afghan staff.”

According to DW, the Taliban have raided the homes of at least three of its journalists. It also reported that another journalist, “Nematullah Hemat of the private television station Ghargasht TV is believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban, and Toofan Omar, the head of the private radio station Paktia Ghag Radio, was, according to government officials, targeted and shot dead by Taliban fighters.” Also being targeted are translators and others who have worked for or with forgien correspondents based in Afghanistan. Many who returned safely to their home countries have been trying to help their former colleagues and their families leave the country safely. The Taliban is suspected to have already shot and killed translator Amdadullah Hamdard, a frequent contributor to Germany's Die Zeit newspaper, on August 2 in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, reported DW.

According to DW, the German Journalists' Association (DJV) has also asked the German government to take swift action, and give refuge in Germany to stringers who worked for Western media, as they are the most vulnerable. Frank Überall, the DJV chairman said, "Germany must not stand idly by while our colleagues are persecuted and even murdered."

An entire generation of Afghan reporters is at risk

According to the Reporters Without Borders, Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had told them on August 15 that “no threat or reprisal will be carried out against journalists” under the Taliban regime. However those words seem to have evaporated in just a few days. The RSF had reported in 2009, that “The reign of the Taliban from 1996 to 2001 was a dark period in Afghanistan’s history” adding that all media were banned except one, Voice of Sharia, which broadcast nothing but propaganda and religious programmes.

Now, the RSF states that “only a concerted response by governments can address the terrible challenge facing Afghan journalists and media workers today.” It has suggested that leading Afghan journalists be invited to address the Security Council, so that they “have a chance to appeal for the survival of Afghan journalism.” Such a meeting could lay the foundation of an “Emergency Plan for Afghan Journalism”, stated RSF. The plan they suggest could include:

  • Guarantees for the safety and protection of Afghan journalists and media wherever they may be;
  • Help for journalists who want to leave Afghanistan, in particular, simplified procedures for obtaining visas and payment of travel costs;
  • The creation of a fund to cover the immediate needs of Afghan journalists and media wherever they may be;
  • Coordination and consultation with regard to the sustainability of Afghan media outlets and their possible transfer abroad, including to neighbouring countries; 
  • Assistance for Afghan organisations such as the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ) and the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC).
     

The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) has also called upon the international community to “ensure that the rights of women and girls are respected, with special regard to women journalists and media professionals.” It stated that now there is a threat that can “push back decades of hard-won progress for women and girls who are now terrified of a return to a repressive past under the Taliban.” 

Violet Gonda, IAWRT President said, “There are many journalists and female social activists whose lives hang in the balance and whose stories may never be told as the Taliban takes over – once again. These are the brave women who challenged the status quo fighting for fundamental rights, but have been left behind while terror strikes”.  The IAWRT, has called on the following:

  • The current leadership must guarantee the safety of women journalists, media professionals, and activists in Afghanistan.
  • Women’s organisations around the world should join in solidarity to call for the freedom of women journalists, media professionals, and activists in Afghanistan.
  • The international community should immediately facilitate visas for Afghan journalists and media professionals, especially women and their families including elderly dependents and minor children.
  • In light of the rapidly deteriorating situation at the airport and in the city, there should be protection provided for Afghan civilians being airlifted – from their homes till they reach the airport terminal building.
  • The international community must continue its engagement in brokering peace in Afghanistan

Many media outlets have ceased operations in Afghanistan  

It has been reported that around “100 media outlets have stopped operating in recent weeks, while hundreds of journalists have gone into hiding or are trying to flee the country.” Those still working have been doing so “in accordance” with the conditions set by the Taliban. This time too, the control of the media is one of the biggest and most aggressive moves of a hardliner regime, which in the era of social media is more ‘image’ conscious than before. 

The committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said “an entire generation of Afghan reporters” is at risk, it has already “registered and vetted the cases of more than 350 journalists seeking safety as of August 19, and there are more than a thousand cases under review.” The CPJ asked the United States and other countries to “ensure the safety of Afghan journalists by facilitating safe passage out of the country and providing emergency visas.” However, many Afghan Journalists now fear that they “may not be alive by the time help comes” if it comes at all.      

Related:

Afghanistan: The End of the Occupation
Controversial comments on Taliban draw ire
Taliban 2.0: Old laws in newer package?
Zee proposes “Afghanistan Tour Package” for “Tukde-tukde gang”
We want our rights: Afghan women protesters
Hell on Earth
Will Taliban takeover of Afghanistan be used to attack Indian Muslims?
Gov't will help Afghanistan's Sikhs and Hindus to come to India: MEA
Afghan crisis: Women, activists demand immediate ceasefire, protection for civilians

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