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Threats to media freedom growing more severe

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KABUL – The Afghanistan Journalists Center has sounded the alarm on the intensifying challenges faced by media organizations and journalists in Afghanistan, as outlined in their latest report covering the first six months of this year.

Spanning from March 21 to November 17, 2023, the report exposes widespread disruptions to media operations throughout the provinces and in Kabul. Stringent restrictions on information access have severely hindered the ability of media organizations to produce independent reports and engage in critical journalism. The Taliban’s tightening control over media content has compelled outlets to focus exclusively on approved coverage of humanitarian events, aid efforts, and educational programs.

A concerning surge in arrests of journalists is a focal point in the report, highlighting the continued clampdown on those expressing critical opinions, even on online platforms. The AFJC documented a total of 75 incidents violating media freedom during the first six months of the ongoing solar year. These incidents include 33 arrests and 42 instances of threats against journalists and media personnel.

The majority of arrests were executed by the intelligence department, with various other agencies, notably intelligence, information, and culture, implicated in threatening journalists and media professionals.

Despite the Taliban’s apparent endorsement of media and access to information laws, the report finds that their implementation remains inconsistent with directives issued in the past two years. At least 13 directives related to media have been issued during this period, surpassing the limited adjustments proposed by the Taliban in the country’s media laws. Journalists and media organizations continue to face repercussions based on these directives.

In response to the deteriorating situation, AFJC underscores the detrimental impact of restrictions on the free press and journalists’ rights. The organization calls for the Taliban to review their media policy, urging them to refrain from imposing unjustified and extra-legal demands on journalists and media. AFJC advocates for the provision of an environment that allows journalists to work without fear and free from self-censorship.

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