Taliban ban cooperation with diaspora broadcaster – Voice of America – VOA News

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The Afghan Taliban on Thursday warned reporters and experts against working with the London-based broadcaster Afghanistan International TV, saying they would be committing a crime if they worked with the station.

A spokesperson for the Taliban-controlled Ministry of Information and Culture alleged that the station, which is accessible through satellite, cable and social media, was committing violations and crossing moral and legal boundaries.

“At the commission’s meeting held [Wednesday], it was decided that participating in discussions and facilitating the broadcast of this media outlet in public places is prohibited,” said Habib Ghofran, the spokesperson.

Zia ul Haq Haqmal, deputy minister for broadcasting, said people would be committing a crime if they collaborated with the station. He listed 10 reasons people should not work with the broadcaster, including its alleged distortion of information.

“If someone does not cooperate on the basis of all these 10 reasons, then it’s the court’s job to give a punishment,” Haqmal said.

Harun Najafizada, the broadcaster’s director, said the development would not impact the channel because it has no employees or freelancers in Afghanistan.

“We don’t have anyone on the ground and rely on the reporting of Afghan citizens,” Najafizada said, according to The Associated Press. “That’s more challenging, but we have tough verification. It’s a threat to free media, to other media. And to put pressure on us to forgo our professional standards, it’s not going to work.”

Press freedom groups have called on the Taliban to revoke the restrictions targeting Afghanistan International TV, which is the country’s most popular international television channel, according to a December survey by the charity BBC Media Action.

“The Taliban must immediately lift their ban on journalists working with broadcaster Afghanistan International and allow Afghan citizens unrestricted access to news produced by the popular London-based outlet without fear of reprisal,” Beh Lih Yi, Asia program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement.

“The Taliban must stop using the Media Complaints Commission as a tool to impose even harsher censorship on Afghan news outlets and diaspora media,” she added.

The prohibition underscores the atrocious state of press freedom in Afghanistan, which Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, ranked 178th out of 180 countries in terms of media freedom.

Since the Taliban’s 2021 takeover, more than two-thirds of the 12,000 reporters in the country have stopped working as journalists, according to RSF. The crackdown has had a particularly harmful effect on female journalists: Eight out of 10 of them have had to stop working, according to RSF.

Afghanistan International TV began broadcasting on August 14, 2021, just one day before the Afghan capital, Kabul, fell to the Taliban.

The Taliban have shuttered several local broadcasters and have banned international broadcasters, including Voice of America and its sister outlet Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.

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