Year later, Afghan media struggles to survive: ‘no law, only restrictions’

Sadiqa Shirazi knew what the Taliban considered her journalism effectively earlier than their takeover of Afghanistan. From 2008, as Shirazi, then working a TV and radio station in Kunduz, focussed on tales about home violence, girls’s rights and their training, she and her husband began getting loss of life threats. In 2015, in the course of the 5 temporary days that Taliban entered Kunduz, her tv and radio station was destroyed, and stripped of all tools.

Shirazi, who had fled to the Afghanistan capital on the time, determined to combat again. With funding assist from donors, and a principally girls crew of 15, she restarted Roshani radio, broadcasting programmes from 6 am to 2 am, together with dwell Q&As with listeners.

In 2021, Shirazi, her husband and eight-year-old daughter had already left for Kabul when the Taliban took over Kunduz. “They have been calling my husband repeatedly, asking us to return, saying that they’d not hurt us,” she stated. However this time, Shirazi stated, she knew there was no going again.

“They at all times accused us of pushing an American agenda… There is no such thing as a method to work as a journalist in Kunduz now,” Shirazi instructed The Indian Express from Canada, the place she is now making an attempt to begin life anew together with her household. Her feminine crew members have dispersed too, to Canada and Pakistan.

The handful of males who have been in Shirazi’s crew are nonetheless working the radio station. “They need to go by the Taliban agenda. They’ve solely Islamic programmes now,” she stated.

Based on a report by the Worldwide Federation of Journalists which companions with the Afghan Nationwide Journalists Union, within the quick aftermath of the Taliban takeover, of 400 media organisations, over 160 have needed to shut down, of which practically 100 are radio stations. For these which might be open, the bottom guidelines of what can and can’t be broadcast are laid down by the brand new rulers. Two TV channels run by girls for feminine audiences are amongst people who have shut down.

From 2003 to 2021, as Afghanistan tried to seek out its democratic centre whilst overseas forces and Taliban fought for management, apart from the training of girls, the explosion of media was one of many extra noticeable achievements. Many ladies joined journalism because it was thought-about respectable work.

Since final yr, with so many media homes now not useful, greater than 2,000 journalists are out of labor, 70 per cent of them girls, in keeping with surveys by journalist associations, amid draconian guidelines for girls at work. Many of those girls have been the one incomes members of their household. A focused assault in July 2021 towards three girls tv journalists, killing them on the spot, set the stage for girls to give up their jobs en masse when the Taliban took over in August.

There have been 120 detentions of journalists, 48 of them in Kabul alone. Newspapers are now not printed and have all gone on-line.

“Afghans haven’t any entry to info on their very own. We’re principally following our information by western media,” stated a journalist. “The nationwide media is doing self-censorship and the Taliban are monitoring all the pieces.”

He stated that underneath the Structure that was in operation till the Taliban took over, there was freedom of speech. “Based mostly on that, there was a media regulation, and our personal entry to info regulation, and an oversight physique to observe entry to info. It was the most effective on this area. However the Taliban scrapped all that as quickly as they got here. Now there isn’t any regulation. Solely loads of restrictions,” the journalist stated.

A whole bunch of journalists have fled to neighbouring Pakistan, hoping to get a visa to any third nation from there, as most embassies in Kabul are nonetheless shut.

Tolo Information of the Moby group, Afghanistan’s most well-known channel, is among the few media organisations that has stayed afloat. Khpolwak Sapai, director of the channel, stated it had not been stopped from doing any tales.

“The Taliban have stated they assist free media with some circumstances, corresponding to to not do any tales towards Islamic values, or nationwide values. These can have vast interpretations, and it’s creating loads of confusion. We have now conveyed to them that we have to have a media regulation, in any other case it will likely be tough to outline the boundaries,” stated Sapai.

On the day of the Taliban takeover on August 15, 2021, Sapai recalled that he had no anchors within the studio by 4 pm as everybody had left in panic. For many of the day, the TV channel put out repackaged variations of the day gone by’s information.

“Round 3 pm, we learnt (President) Ashraf Ghani had left the nation. I needed to be each cautious with my editorial choice due to the panic that had already taken over Kabul as a result of presence of Taliban within the western a part of town, and the concern of armed criminals in Kabul,” stated Sapai, who studied journalism in Kabul College within the Sixties, and described the final 20 years as the most effective years for journalism in Afghanistan.

A male presenter lastly agreed to come back to workplace, and the station broke the information that the President had fled. The channel obtained Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid to talk dwell and reassure the those who it could be a peaceable transition and no felony parts could be allowed to make the most of the confusion.

However over the following few days, Tolo misplaced 90 per cent of its employees as each female and male staff give up, a few of them to go overseas, some as a result of their members of the family didn’t enable them to depart dwelling. “As the one individual right here, I needed to preserve the channel on, and I needed to rent new colleagues,” he stated.

It was a chance to inject recent blood, Sapai stated. The channel has recruited extra girls than it had earlier. It has 20 provincial correspondents, of whom eight are girls, and 20 girls in Kabul, working as reporters, presenters and camerapersons.

Wanting again, Sapai stated the primary few weeks underneath the Taliban have been maybe simpler. One Taliban spokesman even agreed to go on tv with girl presenter Beheshta Arghand, which Sapai stated had made him hopeful. The picture made waves internationally. However then the Taliban imposed a strict gown code, together with a face cowl for girls presenters. For a number of days, Tolo’s male presenters additionally wore a face masks on air as a mark of protest.

Waheeda Hassan, a reporter on the information channel who was employed in Tolo’s current recruitment drive, stated she works so as to encourage different girls to do the identical. “The Taliban wish to take away girls from society. Happening tv is a method to give the message that Afghan girls nonetheless exist, and to provide girls the arrogance that they will additionally come out of their properties,” Hassan stated.

Nonetheless, stated Hassan, life had develop into unpredictable underneath the Taliban, particularly for girls. Being a journalist who must be out and about, was to run the gauntlet day by day.

“We don’t know what firmaan they’re going to give you subsequent. If you’re by your self in a automotive, they ask the place’s your mehram? If you’re with a male colleague, how are you associated to him? Every day, a unique rule. In the future, they could say a girl’s voice shouldn’t be halal,” stated Hassan.

“My household tells me it’s a harmful job, they don’t need me to do that. However who will increase a voice for girls if all girls keep at dwelling and develop into silent,” she stated.

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At a provincial radio station, an progressive younger broadcaster, who didn’t wish to be recognized, stated she had discovered a method to discuss girls’s rights by invoking faith at first of every programme.

Regardless of the fightback, the senior journalist stated Afghan journalism was now affected by a triple whammy — monetary insecurity, bodily safety, and lack of capability. “Lots of the leaders in Afghan journalism have left the nation. Those that are left behind are in panic, and are feeling demotivated,” he stated.

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