New York, February 22, 2023 – The Taliban must reverse its recent orders targeting media operations in Helmand and Parwan provinces and allow journalists to work freely and independently, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, February 21, Taliban officials, in a meeting with journalists in the southern province of Helmand, announced a ban on all media outlets—including Taliban-run Radio Television of Helmand and Bakhtar News Agency —preparing and distributing photos and videos, according to the media watchdog Nai and a journalist inside Afghanistan, who spoke to CPJ by messaging app on the condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal. Taliban authorities have not clarified whether text-based media activities are still allowed; however, Bakhtar News Agency has stopped operations in Helmand, because the ban on recording video and taking pictures has prevented them from producing any content.
Separately, on Monday, February 20, Taliban officials in northern Parwan province ordered the media to change their coverage to fall in line with what is reported by the Taliban-run Bakhtar News Agency, stifling all independent reporting, according to a local news report and another journalist inside Afghanistan, who spoke to CPJ by messaging app on the condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal.
“The Taliban’s severe restrictions imposed on the media in Helmand and Parwan provinces reflect an alarming escalation of local information control,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “The Taliban must immediately reverse these devastating orders and allow journalists to report without fear of retaliation. Access to information inside Afghanistan depends on it.”
Abdul Ahad Talib, the Taliban governor of Helmand, said during the February 21 meeting that recording videos and taking photos are forbidden in Islam, which is why the ban includes Taliban-run outlets, the journalist told CPJ. Taliban officials also warned the journalists attending the meeting not to discuss the order publicly.
CPJ contacted Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid for comment via messaging app but received no response. CPJ was unable to locate contact information for the Taliban governor of Helmand.
In August 2022, CPJ published a special report about the media crisis in Afghanistan, showing a rapid deterioration in press freedom since the Taliban retook control of the country one year earlier, marked by censorship, arrests, assaults, and restrictions on women journalists.