The Taliban have detained, beaten and threatened several journalists covering protests in Kabul and other districts in Afghanistan, and told some news crews that they need permission to film.
More than 14 reporters and photographers were detained over two days this week while covering demonstrations for women’s rights and protests against Pakistan, according to the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA).
Journalists, including TOLOnews video operator Wahid Ahmadi, were detained on Tuesday, and a BBC news crew was ordered to stop filming. TOLOnews said on Twitter that Ahmadi had been held for three hours.
TOLOnews cameraperson Wahid Ahmadi was released after being detained for nearly three hours by the Taliban. His camera–with its footage of the protests he was covering–has been returned.#TOLOnewspic.twitter.com/lwB7aEReEZ
— TOLOnews (@TOLOnews) September 7, 2021
The following day, journalists, including two from the local newspaper Etilaatroz, were arrested while covering a women’s rights rally in Kabul.
Zaki Daryabi, editor in chief of Etilaatroz, shared images on social media of two of his reporters, who had deep red welts across their bodies and legs and bruised faces.
— Zaki Daryabi (@ZDaryabi) September 9, 2021
He cited accounts by his photographer Nematullah Naqdi, who described how a member of the Taliban crushed his face on the ground with his foot and kicked Naqdi in the head. “I thought they were going to kill me,” the photographer was quoted as saying.
“One of the Taliban put his foot on my head, crushed my face against the concrete. They kicked me in the head… I thought they were going to kill me,”.
He asked why he was being beaten, only to be told: “You are lucky you weren’t beheaded.”https://t.co/k9EKy3iYSK
— Zaki Daryabi (@ZDaryabi) September 9, 2021
Daryabi said that members of the Taliban detained five of his staff for over four hours and beat two of them.
One of the reporters, Taqi Daryabi, said he was beaten by several people.
“They would raise sticks and beat us with all of their strength. After they beat us, they saw that we had passed out. They took us to lock us up in a cell with a few others,” he told Reuters.
In Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, video footage appeared to show armed Taliban militants trying to block a group of people, believed to be journalists, who were carrying cameras at a demonstration for women’s rights.
In the video, one gunman looks at papers presented by the men, who are carrying cameras, and another tries to stop the group, pushing one of them and saying “Go.” One of the gunmen is loading his weapon and threatening the group.
VOA could not independently verify the authenticity of the video.
At their first news conference in Kabul last month, the Taliban said media would be free to report provided they work according to “Islamic principles,” and are fair and serve “national interests.”
Reuters cited an unnamed Taliban minister as saying recent reports of attacks on the media would be investigated.
Media rights groups, including the AIJA and International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), have condemned the treatment of news crews.
The arrests and violence “fundamentally contravenes the Taliban’s renewed promises of a free, independent and private media,” the IFJ said in a statement.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which also reported at least 14 journalists briefly detained in Kabul, said journalists had also been beaten or threatened and had equipment seized.
“The Taliban is quickly proving that earlier promises to allow Afghanistan’s independent media to continue operating freely and safely are worthless,” said Steven Butler, CPJ Asia program head, in a statement.
Outside the capital, on September 1, the Taliban detained about a dozen journalists on the Afghan side of the country’s border with Pakistan and held them overnight.
Five Pakistani journalists, from Peshawar and Karachi, and three Germans were among those detained and taken to the Afghan city of Jalalabad.
Some of the journalists, who spoke with VOA’s Urdu service, said they had been detained for taking photographs and filming without permission.
After being released, the Pakistani journalists were allowed to travel to a hotel in Jalalabad, where they contacted the Pakistani Consulate in Kabul.
An official from the consulate was able to arrange for the journalists to move freely in Afghanistan, they said.
Hundreds of journalists have sought to leave Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover, fearing a return to the restrictive environment the group fostered in the 1990s.
Former TOLO TV anchor Shakeela Ibrahimkhel, who fled the country after a Taliban bomber killed several of her colleagues in 2016, told VOA she doesn’t believe the group can be “trusted to stand by their promises.”
Since the Taliban have resumed power, some news outlets have altered broadcasts to cut music and women from their programs, and several female journalists have stopped working, rights groups and local journalists say.
VOA’s Urdu service contributed to this report. Some information for this report came from Reuters.