Over the past few weeks, the Taliban have made huge territorial gains across Afghanistan accompanied by a surge in violence and threats against journalists and independent media. In regions that the Taliban have seized, media outlets have been forced to close or carry Taliban propaganda. Staff have fled or have gone in to hiding. Over 1,200 journalists and media workers have already lost their jobs with many more under threat. On 11 August, 10 media outlets were forced to close when the Taliban took control of Baghlan province.
Everywhere across the country, journalists are facing threats and intimidation because of their work. Women journalists are particularly targeted, both for their work and because of the Taliban’s perception of social norms. In recent months, hundreds of women journalists have been forced to flee, have been banned from working or have even been subjected to targeted murderous attacks.
All media professionals covering the situation in Afghanistan are currently risking their lives. On 8 August, the Taliban reportedly killed journalist Toofan Omar in Kabul in a targeted attack. Omar worked as the station manager of Paktia Ghag radio, and was an officer for Nai, an organisation supporting independent media in Afghanistan. Two days earlier, on 6 August, the Taliban murdered the head of Afghanistan’s Media and Information Centre Dawa Khan Minapal, also in Kabul.
According to a report the Nai published in July, at least 30 media workers have already been killed, wounded or tortured in Afghanistan since the beginning of 2021.
The IFJ is working urgently with its affiliates the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA) and Afghanistan’s National Journalists Union (ANJU) to provide emergency support to help journalists take protective measures and seek safety. IFJ affiliates are also lobbying governments in a number of countries to provide emergency visas and logistical support to enable those most at threat to leave the country. Those in neighbouring countries are working to ensure safe passage for journalists forced to leave Afghanistan.
Unions in several countries are negotiating directly on behalf of journalists with international media to ensure staff and freelance workers can be relocated or provided with security or protection where necessary.
The IFJ has established a special Afghanistan Solidarity Fund within the IFJ Safety Fund to channel further support and is urging those who can to make a donation. All funds raised will go directly to providing support to Afghan colleagues.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “Violence against media workers is increasing daily in Afghanistan. We have a duty of care but also a moral duty to support journalists who are working and risking their lives to cover the conflict in Afghanistan. It is time for the authorities, rights groups, media outlets, governments and the international community to do everything in their power to keep journalists, their colleagues and their families safe. Solidarity and assistance are urgently needed.”