Noor TV, founded by former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, was shut down by the Taliban on April 16, along with Barya TV. (Screenshot: Noor TV/YouTube)

Taliban shuts down broadcasters Noor and Barya, seals Noor offices

New York, April 18, 2024—The Taliban must cease their relentless suppression of independent media in Afghanistan and allow private broadcasters Noor TV and Barya TV to resume operations, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

On Tuesday, the Media Complaints and Rights Violations Commission banned the two broadcasters for violating “national and Islamic values,” without giving further details, according to media reports.

On Tuesday, Taliban intelligence forces stormed the headquarters of Noor TV in the capital, Kabul, disconnected the electricity, and sealed the premises, a former staffer told CPJ, on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

Barya TV also was taken off air, according to a journalist familiar with the situation who also spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal. Sources could not confirm whether its offices were also sealed.

“The Taliban must immediately and unconditionally reverse its ban on Noor TV and Barya TV and allow the two channels to resume broadcasting,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Beh Lih Yi. “The Taliban are misusing the Media Complaints and Rights Violations Commission to stifle the press in Afghanistan, arbitrarily closing media houses, without regard for freedom of speech.”

Ministry of Information and Culture spokesman Khubaib Ghufran told Agence France-Presse news agency on Thursday that the channels had programs “creating confusion among the public” and their owners had “taken stands as opponents” of the Taliban government.

Hafizullah Barakzai, a member of the commission, told ABC News that a court would investigate files on the two stations, which could not operate until the court gave its verdict.

Pressure had been mounting on Barya TV from Taliban intelligence since late 2023, forcing the broadcaster to lay off most of its staff, CPJ’s journalist source said. The journalist source said that the Taliban’s pressure increased on Barya TV because of Hizbe Islami leader’s criticism of the group’s policies and the TV channel’s broadcast of these criticisms.  

Both of CPJ sources indicate that the specific violations and issues brought before the court have not been disclosed by the Taliban.

Noor TV was established in 2007 by former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was assassinated in 2011. It is currently owned by his son, Salahuddin Rabbani, an exiled former foreign minister and leader of the Jamiat-e-Islami party.

Barya TV was founded in 2019 by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former warlord and leader of the Hizb-e-Islami party. Its programming focuses on politics and news about Hekmatyar,

The founder’s son, Habiburrahman Hekmatyar, said on X, formerly Twitter that the channel was shut down because its religious values differed from those of the Taliban.

Barya TV editorial manager Qazi Shabir Ahmad rejected the commission’s claim that Barya TV violated Islamic and national interests and said that the April 16 ban was a “pretext” for stopping its operations. He told CPJ that the Taliban did not communicate any specific issues concerning their broadcasts, either in writing or verbally, prior to the ban, which he described as “politically motivated”.

Since the Taliban took over in 2021, they have shut down local broadcasters, including Radio Nasim in central Daikundi Province, Hamisha Bahar Radio and TV in eastern Nangarhar Province, and Radio Sada e Banowan in northeastern Badakhshan Province. In 2022, the group also banned international broadcasters such as the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America.

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