Members of the Taliban walk past an anti-American mural on the wall of the former U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 12, 2022. The Taliban recently blocked transmissions from the U.S. Congress-funded broadcasters VOA and RFE/RL. (Reuters/Ali Khara)

Taliban bans radio broadcasts of VOA and RFE/RL in Afghanistan

New York, December 1, 2022 – Taliban authorities must cease their intensifying crackdown on the media in Afghanistan and reinstate the radio transmissions of the U.S. Congress-funded broadcasters Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

The Taliban’s Ministry of Information and Culture issued the ban, which went into effect on Thursday, removing the two stations from AM and FM transmission networks in Afghanistan, according to statements by both broadcasters. The statements said the Taliban received unspecified complaints about the outlets’ programming content.

In its statement, RFE/RL said it would continue working outside the country and would expand options to reach its audience through other platforms.

“The Taliban must immediately lift their ban on radio broadcasts by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America in Afghanistan,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Beh Lih Yi, in Frankfurt, Germany. “The information aired by those outlets is critical and can save lives. This latest crackdown on media clearly shows the Taliban is going back on their word about guaranteeing press freedom in Afghanistan.”

RFE/RL’s Afghan service, known locally as Azadi, is among the most popular media outlets in Afghanistan, covering issues from public health to school lessons for girls, in the Dari and Pashto languages, the outlet wrote in its statement. VOA wrote that the station’s Afghan service broadcasts 12 hours a day on 15 FM channels and two medium wave channels, with programming split between the Pashto and Dari languages.

CPJ contacted Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid for comment via messaging app but did not receive any response.