New York, March 17, 2022 — The Taliban must immediately release journalist Bahram Aman, a news presenter at independent broadcaster TOLOnews, and stop detaining and intimidating members of the Afghanistan press corps, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On Thursday, March 17, Taliban agents from the General Directorate of Intelligence detained Aman as well as TOLOnews news manager Khapalwak Sapai and the channel’s legal adviser at its headquarters in District 10 of Kabul, the capital, according to BBC Persian and tweets by former TOLOnews journalists.
The former news director Lotfullah Najafizada said in a tweet that Aman remained in custody while the others were released. None of the sources named the legal adviser who was detained.
The Taliban has not confirmed detention of the three. Jawad Sargar, deputy director of the GDI’s directorate of media and publication, denied the detentions in response to a request for comment sent via messaging app.
“The Taliban must immediately release TOLOnews journalist Bahram Aman, and stop its intelligence agency from arbitrarily arresting and intimidating media personnel,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Afghanistan’s once thriving independent media community cannot operate effectively under constant Taliban threats and harassment.”
TOLOnews, a 24/7 news channel based in Afghanistan and owned by the United Arab Emirates-headquartered Moby Media Group, has continued to air news and current affairs since the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban on August 15, 2021. On Thursday, the Taliban’s Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in an official letter banned the airing of foreign soap operas by Moby Media Group’s TV stations, according to the Instagram page of independent Afghan news site Hasht-e Subh Daily and a Moby Media Group executive who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.
CPJ has documented the increasingly prominent role of the intelligence agency in controlling news media and intimidating journalists in Afghanistan.