Taliban threat to treat Afghan media as military targets

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the Taliban’s latest serious threats against the media and urges the Afghan government and Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy negotiating with the Taliban, to do whatever is necessary to protect journalists.

In a statement issued by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Military Commission on 23 June, the Taliban accused the media of “disseminating statements and sometimes advertising that speak badly of Jihad, the Mujahideen and the Taliban, turning the population against them.”

The statement added that the media had a week “to change their attitude and stop being hostile towards the Taliban (...) or else they will no longer be regarded as media outlets and will instead be regarded as enemy intelligence sources and as military targets that will be attacked by the Mujahideen. Journalists and media outlets will no longer be safe.”

Attacks against civilian targets, including media and journalists, constitute war crimes,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Afghanistan desk. “We call on the countries participating in the peace talks to demand a statement from the Taliban explicitly undertaking to respect international humanitarian law’s basic treaties, starting with the Geneva Conventions.”

Moini added: “At the same time, the Afghan government must ensure that the intelligence services and the military do no use the media for propaganda purposes, and must guarantee the safety of the media, which should be able to operate in a free and independent manner.”

In a statement in October 2015 , the Taliban identified Afghanistan’s two leading privately-owned TV channels as “military targets.” The threat was carried out on 20 January 2016, when a bus operated by the Kabura TV production company was bombed, killing seven Moby Media Group employees.

The resumption of peace talks between the US and the Taliban at the start of 2019 has not reduced tension in Afghanistan. Although the level of press freedom has not been visibly affected, the safety of journalists and media is worsening steadily, above all because of the lack of protective measures by the authorities.

According to RSF’s tally, there have been at least 45 cases of violence against journalists and the media in Afghanistan since the start of the year, including threats, physical violence and destruction of media outlets.

Afghanistan is ranked 121st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.