Taliban Silence Media by Killing, Capturing Journalists

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KABUL: With the surge in violence across the country, media workers are being threatened and targeted in a drive by Taliban insurgents to silence freedom of press in Afghanistan.

With the approach of Taliban insurgents to northwestern Samangan, all media activities including television channels and radio stations have suspended in the province.

Four television channels including the state-ran RTA and five independent radio stations were active in Samangan.

A video clip circulating on social media shows Taliban enter Aibak city, capital of Samangan province. The militants launched a coordinated attack on Aibak city on Sunday night, but they were repelled by Afghan security forces, according to the Ministry of Interior.

Local journalists and media workers are in distress since no supporting bodies are protecting them in the province which is already subject to heavy fights.

Media-affiliated individuals in various regions of Afghanistan share similar concerns, given the intensified targeted attacks upon media figures. 

On Sunday, Toofan Omar, an officer of NAI – an open media support organization in the country –and manager of Paktia Ghag radio station, was shot dead by unidentified armed men in capital Kabul.

Head of NAI, Mujeeb Khelwatgar, said, “he was a liberal man…we are being targeted for working independently.”

On the same day, Helmand province, Nematullah Hemat, a local journalist, was abducted from his home in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province.

“There is just absolutely no clue where the Taliban have taken Hemat…we are really in a state of panic,” said head of Gharghast TV, where Hemat was working.

A Taliban spokesperson has denied responsibility for both incidents to Reuters.

However, the group is criticized for banning or limiting media both in the past and in the districts under their control as of now.

NAI has shared reports of death, injury, or kidnapping of at least 30 journalists across the country within this year.

Acts of intimidation against free media have led to an Afghan news organizations’ coalition writing a letter to the US president and the House of Representatives requesting special visas to their journalists and staff. 

The Taliban has vastly advanced its territorial control across the country following heavy confrontations with Afghan security forces.