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'I Don't Know How to Keep Broadcasting': Afghan Media Members in Despair as Colleagues Flee

September 9, 2021
Daniel Dayan
3 min read
'I Don't Know How to Keep Broadcasting': Afghan Media Members in Despair as Colleagues Flee

Members of the media in Afghanistan have been living in fear ever since the Taliban came to power. In recent days more than a dozen reporters and crew members covering protests in Kabul and other Afghan cities were detained and in some cases viciously beaten by the Taliban.

The Taliban appears unable to live up to its initial promise to allow the press and broadcasters to continue their work. The mass exodus of journalists and closures are now posing a serious risk to the free flow of information within and from Afghanistan.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) recently announced in a statement that of 700 female journalists it established were working in Kabul last year, only 100 have returned to work since the Taliban takeover. Meanwhile, many outlets are now struggling to recruit enough professionals to keep afloat.

Radio Sedaye Badghis in the northwestern Badghis province began broadcasting two and a half years ago. Since the fall of Kabul, it has lost eight employees. Some have left Afghanistan and others are reluctant to continue operating under the banner of the Islamic Emirate.

In an interview with IranWire, Abdul Razzaq Siddiqui, the head of the radio station, said he sees the future of free media under the Taliban as bleak. He himself is disappointed, and thinking of leaving Afghanistan: "We’ve stopped broadcasting since the government fell. One of the biggest reasons for the media shutdown is the lack of professional staff.”

So far, the Taliban has not issued specific instructions for media activity. But the group's officials, including spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, have said it should be in line with the Taliban’s version of Sharia law. Weeks ago the Taliban pledged to RSF to recognize media freedom and ensure journalists’ security, but there is little to no public confidence in this. Television was banned outright during the previous period of Taliban rule in the late 1990s, and only Sedaye Shariat radio station was allowed to operate in Kabul.

Seyed Zubair Sadat is the managing director of Taraghi TV in Herat. His channel, too, has come off air since the fall of the Afghan government. He told IranWire this was because he could no longer find so much as one professional staff member to work with him. “I do not know how to run my TV broadcasts,” he said in despair.

Sadat said many of his former media colleagues in Herat province are now in hiding, and trying to find a covert means of leaving the country. Of the more than 50 audio-visual media outlets that were operating in Herat before, he said, only five are still active.

Many of those who formerly worked in the Afghan media are still in shock. The trade that they built their lives on now looks set to irrevocably change, or be lost. Most never imagined the previous government would fall apart so easily, nor that the United States would hand them over to the Taliban as passively as it did. Some continue to work, but without their colleagues around them, they are fighting a losing battle.

This article was written by a citizen journalist under a pseudonym.

Related coverage:

Afghan Journalists Fear for Their Lives After Mass Arrests

Protesting Women of Herat and Kabul: We Will Never Submit to the Taliban

Low Turnout and Tension for Afghan Shiites at First Ashura Under the Taliban

Taliban Assures Iranian Foreign Ministry its Diplomats are Safe

Iran's Interior Ministry: Afghan Refugees Will be Turned Back at the Border

What Treatment Can Fleeing Afghans Expect From Iran?

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