Human Rights Watch said that the “new rules are suffocating media freedom” in Afghanistan.
The Ministry of Information and Culture on Saturday denied claims it was imposing restrictions on the media in Afghanistan, saying that all media outlets can continue their activities. “There are small cases that happen in some areas,” said Mawlavi Noor Mohammad Motawakil, a member of the cultural commission of the ministry.
“If there is any illegal action, it will be addressed. The Islamic Emirate supported the media before, and it is supporting it now. Of course, the publishing must be in an Islamic format and in accordance with Afghanistan’s tradition,” he said.
Human Rights Watch earlier expressed concerns over the media status in Afghanistan, saying that the “Taliban authorities imposed wide-ranging restrictions on media and free speech.”
“Despite the Taliban’s promises to allow media that ‘respected Islamic values’ to function, the new rules are suffocating media freedom in the country,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch, as quoted in a statement released by the group. “The Taliban regulations are so sweeping that journalists are self-censoring and fear ending up in prison.”
Haroon Noor, who has worked for a local media organization for nearly 10 years in the northern province of Parwan, said that media access to information has been restricted at an unprecedented level since the fall of the former government.
“Since the start of the Islamic Emirate government onward, there have been widespread restrictions on journalists,” he said. “If you want to make a political program, you must get permission from the Ministry of Information and Culture.”
The head of one of the media outlets in Parwan, Mohammad Shafiq, said: “Journalists do not dare to go to events, particularly the events that have recently occurred. Fear and panic exists; the right (freedom of expression) is almost taken away.”
On Friday two journalists were reportedly detained by government forces in Parwan. However, the journalists were released after being detained for some time.
“We have reports from Parwan province that two journalists were detained by the forces of the Islamic Emirate while covering an event,” said Masror Lotfi, a member of the Afghan Journalist’s Union. “The detention of journalists while they cover events is a serious restriction to the access to information. We even have reports from Parwan that the journalists must get permission from the provincial culture and information department in order to report an event.”