A member of the Taliban stands guard at the entrance gate of Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 21, 2022. Afghan journalist Zabihullah Noori was beaten by the Taliban's intelligence agents. (Reuters/Ali Khara)

Taliban intelligence officials beat, interrogate journalist Zabihullah Noori

New York, December 22, 2022 – Taliban authorities must investigate the 48-hour detention and cruel assault of Afghan journalist Zabihullah Noori, and hold its intelligence agency to account for the ongoing crackdown on members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

On December 9, around 50 armed officers surrounded and entered the home of Noori, a reporter with independent Takharistan Radio, in Taloqan city in northeastern Takhar Province, according to Rohullah Noori, the journalist’s cousin and director of the station, and the exile-based watchdog group Afghanistan Journalist Center.  

The men beat Noori and some of his family and searched his home for hours before detaining the journalist and transferring him to the provincial headquarters of the Taliban General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI). Rohullah Noori told CPJ by phone that the journalist was interrogated for 48 hours about the station’s programming, which his interrogators said had not been approved by the Taliban without giving further details.  

Officials beat the journalist with an iron rod, administered electric shocks, and suffocated him with a plastic bag, according to Rohullah Noori.

“The Taliban must investigate the detention and brutal assault of Afghan journalist Zabihullah Noori and hold its intelligence agency accountable for these unconscionable actions against a reporter,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Beh Lih Yi in Frankfurt, Germany. “Violence against journalists must not go unpunished. 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 journalists.

Upon the intervention of local tribal elders, Noori was released after 48 hours, Rohullah Noori said, adding that he was required to sign a letter saying that he would no longer report against the Taliban directives. The journalist has since left the country, said Rohullah Noori, who directs the radio station from overseas since fleeing Afghanistan in 2021 amid Taliban threats.

CPJ reviewed images and video of Noori after the beating that showed bruising on his thighs, and Rohullah Noori said he was experiencing short-term memory loss.

CPJ has documented the GDI’s expanded role in persecuting and abusing journalists in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover of August 2021.

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