February 2, 2023 1:38 am

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Taliban Releases Journalist Mirza Hassani, But Many Are Still Behind Bars

Mirza Hassani was arrested by the Taliban intelligence agency on the suspicion that he was working for the National Resistance Front(NRF). Another Zhwandoon TV’s journalist Irfanullah died due to starvation at the Turkey-Iran border.

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Taliban has released journalist Mirza Hassani. The Association of Free Journalists of Afghanistan, in a press release confirmed the release of journalist Mirza Hassani, who was arrested by the Taliban intelligence agencies in Herat on 24th May 2022. His release was also confirmed by TOLO news, a prominent Afghan Digital Television network.

Mirza Hassani, the former owner, and editor of Radio Aftab was detained by the Taliban’s intelligence agents at a checkpoint in District 12 of the Herat city. The Taliban agents snatched Hassani’s cell phone and handed him over to the 12th Directorate of Taliban’s GDI(General Directorate of Intelligence) and since then he has been in Taliban’s custody.

Radio Aftab is a local popular radio station in the Daikundi province of Afghanistan. It stopped its functions after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021.

Why was Hassani Detained

Mirza Hassani was arrested by the Taliban intelligence agency on the suspicion that he was working for the National Resistance Front(NRF). However, no official charge has been framed against him by the Taliban officials.

The NRF is an anti-Taliban group, that has taken arms against the Taliban regime. It has the backing of former politicians of the Afghan republic and has a presence in the Panjshir region of northern Afghanistan.

Attack on Free Press By the Taliban Regime

Journalists in Afghanistan had always been at the receiving end at the hands of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Earlier in September 2022, Tolo news journalists Khpalwak Sapai and Mehboob Stankzai were arrested by Taliban officials in Kabul. They spent several hours in prison and all their belongings were confiscated by the Taliban authority.

The journalists are either forced to switch their professions or have fled Afghanistan. Even the journalists who have fled Afghanistan are also struggling for their survival. Recently,  Zhwandoon TV’s (a Pashto-language television station based in Kabul, Afghanistan) journalist Irfanullah died at the Turkey-Iran border.

Irfanullah after receiving threatening calls from the Taliban left Afghanistan and was heading toward Europe. Sources stated that he died due to starvation. A prominent journalist from Afghanistan Saeedullah Safi informed on his Twitter handle that Irfanullah died due to starvation or was shot by the Turkish police.

As per the survey conducted by Reporters without Borders, out of the total 11,857 journalists who were active in Afghanistan till 15th August 2021, there are now only 4,759 presently left. The rest have fled the country or have switched to a different profession. 

Women were the most affected due to the policies of the Taliban, which aims to restrict the freedom of the press. Around 76.19% of the women journalists in Afghanistan have lost their jobs after Taliban took over.

The Taliban has imposed severe restrictions on the functioning of media. For this, the regime has set up a media monitoring office, whose job is to ensure that the programmes broadcasted are in full compliance with the regime’s preference.

One of the directives issued by the Taliban calls for female anchors to wear facemasks and headscarves while they are presenting Television programmes. These directives which are issued by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are damaging the already weakened Afghan media.

International bodies and media organizations all around the world should work towards the upliftment of press freedom in Afghanistan. Arbitrary attacks and detention of journalists will impact the productivity and functioning of the fourth estate, which is important for every society.

Shubham Joshi
Shubham Joshi
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