Several Afghan journalists have been attacked and detained in the first weeks of 2022, as the Taliban assures press freedom organisations of its commitment to an independent and free media. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the mounting violence and intimidation of Afghanistan’s journalists and media workers and calls for increased efforts to safeguard press freedom in the country.
In the afternoon of January 10, Afghan journalist Noor Mohammad Hashemi, deputy director of Salam Afghanistan Media Organisation, was attacked by three unidentified men. One assailant, carrying a pistol, forced Hashemi from his vehicle and attempted to shoot the journalist. After the gun misfired, Hashemi managed to defend himself and survived the incident.
On January 6, Taliban authorities detained three journalists, Faisal Modaris, Idris Rahimi and Milad Azizi, at a restaurant in the Shari Naw area of Kabul’s District Four. All three journalists work at YouTube broadcaster Kabul Lovers, a channel covering current affairs and daily life in Kabul with over 244,000 subscribers.
The three journalists had recently covered protests in the Panjshir province, reporting residents’ harsh criticism of the Taliban militia’s killing of a civilian in the area. The report was cited by international media organisations and accrued over 120,000 views.
Modaris, Rahimi and Azizi have not been permitted to see family members or lawyers and are reportedly being held by the counterterrorism body of the Taliban’s intelligence agency.
These incidents are the latest in a series of attacks against journalists and media workers in Afghanistan led by the Taliban. On December 26, the Taliban detained Haji Arif Noori, owner of the independent Noorin Television station, and raided his Kabul home before releasing him two days later.
On December 11, Sayed Rashed Kashefi, a reporter with the Kabul Times and Rasa TV, was beaten and detained for over six hours for covering a fight at an aid distribution site in Kabul’s 5th district.
The increase in attacks and detainments comes as the Taliban denies reports of interfering with the media. On January 18, Taliban spokesperson, Inamullah Samagani said, “we are making efforts to create good coordination with the media and (give) good opportunities for them to survive and continue their activities. The presence of a free media is necessary for a good and accountable society.”
The IFJ said: “The disturbing trend of arrests and attacks against journalists and media workers in Afghanistan continues to grow under the Taliban regime. The Taliban must cease its harassment of the media and display a tangible commitment to safeguarding press freedom. The IFJ calls for the immediate release of the detained journalists and justice for those attacked and intimidated.”