Actions or words: Afghan journalists question Taliban’s free press pledge

KABUL: Beaten, homes raided, turned away from work for being a woman: the complaints made by some Afghan journalists in recent days are sowing doubt about assurances made by their new Taliban rulers that independent media would be allowed.

In its first press conference since capturing the capital Kabul, the Taliban militant movement said on Tuesday it would allow free media and jobs for women — banned when it was last in power from 1996 to 2001.

“It has become clear there is a gap between action and words,” Sahar Nasari, a presenter on state-owned Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA), wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday in his native Pashto.

Nasari said Taliban members took his camera and beat up his colleague while he was trying to film a story in Kabul on Thursday.

Journalists are targeted around the world, especially in times of upheaval. But the issue is a sensitive one in Afghanistan, where an open media, free speech and women’s rights are widely seen as hard-fought gains after two decades of war.

A Taliban spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on accusations that it has harassed journalists, and in particular women in the profession.

Several media watchdogs have also reported incidents of Afghan journalists being beaten, harassed or raided at their homes in recent days.

“The Taliban needs to stand by its public commitment to allow a free and independent media at a time when Afghanistan’s people desperately need accurate news and information,” said Steven Butler of New York-based media rights group, Committee to Protect Journalists. – Reuters