By: The Kabul Times
KABUL: The Taliban have issued a threat to Afghan media, saying journalists will be targeted unless news outlets stop broadcasting what they describe as government propaganda against the militants.
In a statement released on June 24, the group gave Afghan radio stations, TV channels, publications and others a week to cease airing anti-Taliban announcements paid for by the government. The ads call on citizens to inform authorities if they see any suspicious Taliban activities.
The Taliban, which has targeted media in the past, said that Afghan news outlets that refuse to stop publishing the ads will be considered “military targets.”
Nai, an Afghan media-advocacy organization, condemned the Taliban warning and called on the Afghan government to take stronger measures to ensure the safety of Afghan media.
Nai said nine Taliban-related media incidents have taken place since the beginning of the year, with one journalist killed, and one injured.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass reacted to the latest threatening message of Taliban to the media outlets. Ambassador Bass in a statement on Twitter condemning the latest threats of Taliban to media.
He said “Afghanistan’s vibrant media is a testament to the gains of the last 18 years. Journalism is not a crime; it is a valued public service to the world.”
Ambassador Bass said “We call on the Taliban to stop threatening Afghan journalists.” Ambassador Bass also added that “More violence, against journalists or civilians, will not bring security and opportunity to Afghanistan, nor will it help the Taliban reach their political objectives.”
The group has threatened and attacked journalists before. In January 2016, a Taliban suicide bomber rammed his car into a bus carrying employees of Tolo TV, the country’s most popular private broadcaster, killing seven journalists.
The Taliban had said it bombed the bus because it claimed Tolo was producing propaganda for the US military and its allies.
Tolo was attacked for “promoting obscenity, irreligiousness, foreign culture and nudity”, the group said in a statement at the time.
Journalists in Afghanistan have been threatened or attacked not only by the Taliban, but also by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), government officials and powerful local figures unhappy with news coverage.
Afghanistan was labelled the deadliest place to be a journalist in 2018 by both the Committee to Protect Journalists which cited 13 killings that year and the International Federation of Journalists that counted 16 scribe deaths.
The Taliban has been fighting Afghan security forces, aided by NATO and US troops, even as their representatives in Qatar have been negotiating a peace agreement with the United States’ envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
They have also held talks with European negotiators.
The next round of talks, the seventh one, is scheduled to begin on June 29 in Doha.
Khalilzad has said the Taliban has agreed to a framework for an agreement that is made up of four interconnected parts: counterterrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan negotiations that lead to a political settlement and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.