A Taliban fighter gestures towards journalists covering a women's rights protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 21, 2021. Taliban members attacked at least three journalists at the protest. (AFP/Bülent Kılıç)

Taliban fighters assault at least 3 journalists covering women’s protest in Afghanistan

Washington, D.C., October 21, 2021 — The Taliban must thoroughly investigate attacks on journalists covering a protest today in Kabul and ensure that members of the press can cover issues of public interest without fear of assault and harassment, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Today, Taliban fighters assaulted at least three journalists covering a women’s protest opposing the group and demanding “work, bread, and education” in Kabul, the capital, according to multiple news reports and Bülent Kılıç, a photographer with the French news agency Agence France-Presse, who was among those attacked and spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.

Taliban fighters hit the other two journalists as they scattered, according to those reports. CPJ was unable to immediately identify those journalists or the extent of their injuries.

“The Taliban must accept that journalists have a right to cover events of public interest, including protests opposing them,” said Carlos Martínez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “The Taliban leadership must thoroughly investigate the attacks on journalists who covered today’s women’s protest and ensure that its members do not attack and harass members of the press.”

Kılıç told CPJ that, shortly after the protest began at 9 a.m., he photographed a Taliban fighter punching a local Afghan journalist, whom he could not identify.

The same attacker then struck Kılıç with the butt of a rifle, kicked him in the back, and swore at him as another Taliban fighter punched him, according to the journalist, a report by his employer, and a video of the incident shared by EuroNews.

The two Taliban fighters chased Kılıç as he ran away, attempting to kick him from behind and beat him with a rifle as he repeatedly identified himself as a journalist, according to those sources. Another Taliban fighter intervened to stop the incident, but insulted Kılıç and ordered him to leave, he said, adding that he continued to follow the protest from a distance.

Kılıç told CPJ that he sustained pain in his arm and back, but did not receive any serious injuries.

According to the AFP report, two unidentified journalists in addition to Kılıç were attacked while “pursued by Taliban fighters swinging fists and launching kicks.”

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.

Previously, on September 8, the Taliban detained and later released at least 14 journalists covering protests opposing the group in Kabul, as CPJ documented at the time, and beat and flogged several of those journalists.