KABUL – UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, has called for the immediate release of journalists who are currently in Taliban custody. He emphasized that these media professionals should have never been detained in the first place.
According to the Afghanistan Journalists Center, there are five journalists and media workers enduring captivity by the Taliban, a situation that has persisted over the past few months. Among those awaiting release are Seyyed Wahidullah Abdali, a reporter for Bakhtar Agency, Habib Sarab, a reporter for Ariana News, as well as Shamsullah Omari and Parviz Sargand, both local journalists.
On Thursday, the Taliban released five journalists who had been held in custody for three weeks. Bennett expressed his relief at their release, stating, “It is high time. They should not have been arrested and detained in the first place, merely for doing their jobs, reporting the news.” He further urged the release of any other journalists still in detention in Afghanistan.
Journalists operating in Afghanistan are facing significant pressure from the Taliban, which has had a chilling effect on the media landscape in the country. This pressure erodes the independence of Afghan media and instills fear among journalists who may wish to report against the status quo, as noted by journalist Hamid Poya.
Reporters Without Borders reports a distressing trend where over 500 media outlets have ceased operations since the resurgence of the Taliban, leaving less than 70 out of 150 TV channels active. The annual report by the Afghan Journalists Center reveals a dire situation, documenting 213 cases of violence against and arrests of journalists in Afghanistan from May 2022 to May 2023. This represents a staggering 64 percent increase compared to two years ago, highlighting the growing peril faced by media professionals in the country.