KABUL: Afghan Journalists Safety Committee has warned of rising threats against the media in Ghazni province, saying the Taliban continue to pressure journalists to self-censor.
The watchdog said the Taliban had threatened a number of local journalists and media officials in Ghazni to censor their broadcastings or face the consequences. They were particularly told to stop airing music songs by female artists.
But the media didn’t relent in the face of the threats, and with mediation by local elders, the Taliban have backed down for now and stopped pestering the local media, he said.
“This threat rings the alarms bells because the Taliban pressure the media to self-censor,” he said.
Taliban’s demands are alarming as the right to information and freedom of expression is a natural right of everybody and no individual or group has the right to deprive people of it, he stated. He urged all parties to the conflict to “respect this basic human right and refrain from obstructing it.
The organization also called on the Afghan government to address the issue immediately, and take it up with Taliban officials in the political office in Doha.
In response to the development, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) stated that “Afghanistan’s journalists deserve safety from all those who would seek to bully or gag them.”
Soon after the start of intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha last month, AJSC Director Najib Sharifi said there’s reason to be seriously concerned about the longevity of achievements in the media sector over the past 19 years.
He said concerns had led the AJSC together with the Afghan media community to launch a Roadmap in April this year to ensure that negotiations would address the need for protection of press freedom and freedom of expression.
“Afghanistan’s constitution strongly upholds press freedom, but that could easily change if the Taliban were to gain political power. Taliban disagrees with the very idea of press freedom and losing these basic democratic rights will be disastrous for the nation”, Sharifi said.
The roadmap sets out specific proposals for the various stages of the peace talks; both for the Afghan government and the negotiating team, as well as for international stakeholders and the media community.
“We will work towards its implementation and we call on the Government of Afghanistan, International stakeholders and especially the negotiating team to consider the road map during the talks,” Sharifi said.