The Taliban’s rise to power has had serious repercussions for the respect of press freedom and the safety of journalists, especially women.
The fall of Kabul to the Taliban on 15 August 2021 radically changed the media landscape. In the space of three months, 43% of Afghan media outlets disappeared. Of the 10,780 people working in Afghan newsrooms (8,290 men and 2,490 women) at the beginning of August, only 4,360 were still working in December (3,950 men and 410 women), or four out of ten journalists. Proportionally, women have been much more affected: more than four in five (84%) have lost their jobs since the arrival of the Taliban, whereas only one in two men have (52%).
The Taliban announced the formation of their government, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, on 7 September 2021. This has made the situation very confusing for journalists because they receive directives from many different parts of the government, including the Minister of Culture and Information, the Istikhbarat (the Taliban intelligence agency), the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Repression of Vice, and the Government Media and Information Centre (GMIC).
On 3 February 2022, government spokesperson and acting Deputy Minister of Information and Culture, Zabihullah Mujahid, confirmed that the press law enacted in March 2015 was still in force. The creation of a Media Offences Verification Commission is also being considered.
The economy, which depended on international aid, has collapsed. According to the UN, more than 22.8 million people will face acute food insecurity in the near future. This context has further undermined the media and made journalism more precarious.
Many subjects are still difficult for the media to cover in Afghanistan. Themes related to religion, the status of women and human rights in general are off limits. But civil society seems to have recovered some energy in recent months and several organisations, including those for the defence of press freedom, have been created or are being developed.
Many journalists have fled abroad as a result of the Taliban takeover. Many others have also been questioned or arrested by the Afghan police and the Istikhbarat. These arrests can be violent and can last from a few hours to almost a week.