A screenshot of Sadaqat Ghorzang describing his beating at the hands of a Taliban fighter while on assignment for TOLOnews. (YouTube/TOLOnews)

Taliban fighter beats freelance journalist Sadaqat Ghorzang at Afghanistan-Pakistan border crossing

Washington, D.C., October 25, 2021– The Taliban must thoroughly investigate the beating of Sadaqat Ghorzang, ensure its forces do not attack members of the press, and commit to allowing the media to operate freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday, a Taliban fighter patrolling the Torkham border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Nangarhar province of eastern Afghanistan beat freelance reporter Sadaqat Ghorzang on his head and arm with a rifle while he was on assignment for privately owned broadcaster TOLOnews reporting about Afghans attempting to cross the border into Pakistan, according to a report by TOLOnews and Ghorzang, who spoke with CPJ via phone.

“The Taliban’s promise that independent media can continue to operate freely under its rule is worthless until it ensures that its forces do not attack and harass members of the press,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “The Taliban must swiftly and impartially investigate the beating of Sadaqat Ghorzhang and guarantee that the journalist is not subject to further retaliation after speaking out about the incident.”

Before he began reporting, Ghorzang said he visited the office of the Taliban commander overseeing the patrol of the area and received his permission to report. He said that the commander fulfilled the journalist’s request to provide a Taliban military officer to act as a bodyguard during his reporting.

Ghorzang said as he was reporting, the bodyguard was slightly ahead of him when a Taliban fighter approached him, confiscated his tripod, microphone, and camera and threw them into a river, and broke his phone. He said the Taliban fighter then repeatedly beat him with a rifle on his head and arm despite Ghorzang saying that he had received permission to report in the area, and the bodyguard’s intervention telling the Taliban fighter not to beat him.

Ghorzang said he then went back to the office of the Taliban commander to complain about the incident and that the commander ordered the fighter who beat him to leave the area.

After Ghorzang left the office, the Taliban fighter who beat him approached the journalist, along with a group of around five other Taliban fighters, and aggressively asked him why he complained to the commander, he told CPJ.

He said that after he recounted the incident in a video published by TOLOnews, the Taliban fighter has contacted him in messages and phone calls, aggressively asking him why he reported on the incident.

Ghorzang said he is in significant pain in the areas where he was beaten and that he sought medical attention at a hospital, where he was prescribed painkillers.

Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesperson in Qatar, and Bilal Karimi, the Taliban deputy spokesperson in Afghanistan, did not respond to CPJ’s requests for comment sent via messaging app.

On October 21, Taliban fighters assaulted at least three journalists covering a women’s protest in Kabul, as CPJ documented.