Images of two Afghan journalists tortured by the Taliban for covering a protest have set off alarms in Afghanistan. Since it fell into the hands of the fundamentalist group on August 15, the country has seen arrests and attacks on reporters multiply, threatening the fragile freedom of the press.
Shakila Ibrahimjil, Afghan journalist: “On television in Afghanistan, it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman, no one will be able to report freely”
Journalists have been detained, tortured, beaten, or sent to hospital with broken bones. The situation of the press under the new Taliban regime begins to reveal the dangerous future towards which the country is moving, despite promises of change from the Taliban.
Although they have maintained a relatively cordial relationship with the international press, in the midst of attempts to project an image of change, the violence and brutality with which they are repressing Afghan journalists tells another story.
This week, on one of the days with the most repression against the press, dozens of reporters covered a protest by thousands of civilians in Kabul in favor of the opposition movement in Panshir province and against Pakistan’s supposed support for the Taliban.
During that day, the Islamist forces beat and arrested at least 14 press workers, and then released them with the order not to cover another “illegal” protest.
One of the victims was a reporter for a news channel Tolo News, who was supposed to cover the demonstration near the presidential palace in Kabul. That day the protest was broken up by a hundred armed Taliban who came firing into the air and began beating and arresting protesters and journalists.
“We started running, but the Taliban captured us, threw us to the ground and handcuffed us and began to punch and kick us in the face, head and body,” says the reporter, who requests anonymity, and assures that the cameraman who accompanying him suffered the same fate.
Later, he says, they were “thrown into the back of a truck” and then transferred to a headquarters of the NDS, Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency.
Handcuffed behind their backs, he says the reporters were questioned twice, in recorded and written statements, while being insulted and beaten by the Taliban.
“They kept us inside the NDS compound for three hours, where they insulted and beat us until a Taliban spokesperson arrived and mediated our release on the condition that we no longer cover the illegal protests,” says the journalist.
According to his account, a Taliban told them: “We forgive you for this time, but after this you do not have permission to cover the illegal protests.”
This journalist was hospitalized with internal injuries after the beatings. Doctors told him that “one of the bones” in his chest was broken.
“After all this, I am very depressed, stressed and worried, the situation is not good for journalists,” he says, while he remains at home recovering.
With the return of the Taliban to power, remembered for the brutality of their first regime, now “press freedom is threatened, the Taliban are trying to silence the media and are applying their ultra-conservative rules,” he thinks.
During the last week, when the protests in favor of the opposition forces increased, adding to previous ones by women, journalists and local media have reported attacks and arrests of their teams and workers, among them the Tolo news channel or the investigative medium Etilaatroz.
The images of the newspaper journalists Etilaatroz After the torture, they show that they were beaten with cables and then sent to a hospital with serious injuries, one of them unable to walk.
“Our colleagues were severely tortured in different, systematic, and unprecedented ways. During four hours they lost consciousness four times. They could have died,” Zaki Daryabi, owner of the Afghan newspaper, said on Twitter.
In detention, the journalists were “tortured for a long time and without mercy,” he says.
The situation is also dire in the rest of the country, with reports of Islamist attacks on the press in the provinces of Herat, Kunduz, Badakhshan, and some others.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) it has “strongly” condemned these attacks in Afghanistan and urges “respect for international law and the physical integrity of journalists.”