Washington, D.C., September 30, 2021 — The Taliban must thoroughly and impartially investigate the recent harassment of the privately owned radio broadcaster Salam Watandar, and commit to allowing the media to operate freely and openly, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On September 26, two armed men forcibly entered Salam Watandar’s office in Kabul, according to news reports, a report by Salam Watandar, and a person familiar with the incident, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal by the Taliban.
One of the men introduced himself as Abdul Malik Safi and said he was a “member of the Islamic Emirate,” meaning the Taliban; the other man was his guard, according to those sources, which said that Safi identified himself as an intelligence officer with the Taliban-controlled Interior Ministry.
However, Ahmadullah Wasiq, the deputy head of the Taliban Cultural Commission, told Salam Watandar that the Interior Ministry and its intelligence department did not have an employee with that name, and the person was likely an imposter, according to the broadcaster’s report.
“The forced entry of armed gunmen–one claiming to be a Taliban officer–into broadcaster Salam Watandar’s office demands immediate investigation and explanation by the Taliban,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The Taliban must live up to early promises to allow independent media to operate freely in Afghanistan.”
The man who identified himself as Safi met with the chief executive of Salam Watandar, Nasser Omar, and other employees for about five hours, and demanded information concerning the broadcaster’s employee contracts, finances, management systems, and other administrative affairs, according to the report by Salam Watandar and the person familiar with the incident, who said that Omar complied and provided that information.
Safi also called for Omar to be replaced, according to those sources.
Previously, on September 18, an unidentified man shot and injured Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, a reporter and editor with Salam Watandar, as CPJ documented at the time. A person familiar with that incident, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal by the Taliban, told CPJ that he suspected the Taliban was behind the attack.
The Taliban have not fulfilled their promises to investigate either that shooting or the September 26 harassment, that person said.
Bilal Karimi, the Taliban deputy spokesperson in Afghanistan, responded to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app saying that he could not confirm whether the Taliban was involved, and that “research is underway in this regard to determine the essence of the case and follow up.”
Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesperson in Qatar, responded to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app saying he did not know about the incident, and asked that CPJ contact Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson in Afghanistan. He did not provide contact information for Mujahid, and CPJ was unable to find contact information for him.
Shaheen added that the Taliban has a committee consisting of representatives of the journalists’ union, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of Information and Culture, which addresses issues involving the media.
CPJ also contacted Wasiq, the deputy head of the Taliban Cultural Commission, and Qari Mohammad Yousuf Ahmadi, the interim director of Afghanistan’s Government Media and Information Center via messaging app for comment, but they did not respond.
[Editors’ note: This article has been updated to include Taliban representatives’ responses to CPJ.]