A Taliban fighter stands guard as women wait for humanitarian aid in Kabul, Afghanistan, in May 2023.
A Taliban fighter stands guard as women wait for humanitarian aid in Kabul, Afghanistan, in May 2023. Women and girls were banned from phoning in to radio shows in eastern Khost Province last month. (Photo: AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Taliban detain 3 Afghan radio journalists for playing music, talking to female callers

New York, April 25, 2023—Taliban authorities should immediately and unconditionally release radio reporters Ismail Saadat, Wahidullah Masum, and Ehsanullah Tasal and stop harassing the press for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

On Monday, the provincial directorate of the Taliban-controlled Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in eastern Khost Province summoned and detained Saadat of Naz FM Radio, Masum of Iqra FM Radio, and Tasal of Wolas Ghag, according to the exiled Afghanistan Journalists Center watchdog group, the London-based news broadcaster Afghanistan International, and a person familiar with the case, who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisals.

The Taliban authorities questioned the journalists regarding their broadcasting of music and talking to female callers during the holiday of Eid al-Fitr earlier this month, those sources said.

The Taliban outlawed playing and listening to music when they retook control of Afghanistan in August 2021.

Last month, authorities in Khost Province banned women and girls from phoning broadcasters, the Afghan Journalists Center said, adding that female listeners sometimes called in to ask questions on educational programs. Afghanistan is the only country in the world where girls are banned from high school.

The person familiar with the case told CPJ that the three journalists were transferred to the provincial police command and were due to face trial soon.

“The detention of Afghan journalists Ismail Saadat, Wahidullah Masum, and Ehsanullah Tasal is only the latest example of the Taliban’s ruthless suppression of the press since the group returned to power in 2021,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York “The Taliban must immediately and unconditionally release all detained journalists and allow the media to operate without restrictive measures like bans on women callers.”  

Despite an initial promise to allow press freedom, repression has worsened with multiple cases of censorship, beatings, and arbitrary arrests of journalists, as well as restrictions on female reporters

Earlier this month, the Taliban banned two two national broadcasters for allegedly violating “national and Islamic values” and announced a plan to restrict access to Facebook in Afghanistan.

In 2023, the Taliban detained four journalists in Khost Province for allegedly violating the Islamic group’s media policies.

CPJ’s text messages to Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid requesting comment did not receive any response.