Top Afghan TV network stays on-air despite fear of Taliban

KABUL: As Taliban fighters entered Kabul on the evening of August 15, executives at Afghanistan’s biggest independent TV network had a tough decision to make: stay on-air or go dark.
Tolo kept broadcasting, but like the rest of the country’s TV and radio stations, it now faces a tough and uncertain future under the Taliban, whose return has sent fear coursing through the media.
The group killed and threatened journalists throughout its 20-year insurgency. During their 1996-2001 regime, TV and most entertainment was banned, and there was no media to speak of.
The Taliban takeover “put us in a very, very difficult situation … to continue our work or not”, Lotfullah Najafizada, the director of Tolo News, told AFP in a phone interview.
“As a 24/7 news operation, we didn’t even have one hour to take a break and rethink.” Tolo stayed on because it had a duty to cover the news, he said, and also because it would have been an “almost impossible” task to negotiate a resumption with the Taliban had the network shut down.
The Taliban leadership has asked Afghan media to operate as usual.
One official even sat down for an interview with a woman host on Tolo News, keen to convince people that the Taliban will be softer this time around. But many Afghans, including in the media, are not convinced.
“We’re scared, I’ll be honest with you, we are nervous,” Saad Mohseni, CEO of Tolo’s parent company Moby Group, told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) from Dubai. – AFP