Taliban have entered a new phase of their media war with the closure of two major Afghan news websites

The closure of the websites of Hasht-e-Subh (8am) newspaper and Zawia Media is another sign of the Taliban's continued suppression of the media in Afghanistan. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the authorities to reverse this decision as soon as possible and allow the media to continue informing the Afghan people, as their basic human rights.

“In addition to the Taliban's continuous restriction of the media, the closure of the websites of Hasht-e-Subh (8am) and Zawia Media, marks the start of a new phase in the Taliban's war on media freedom,” RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk said. “They have used violence and regulations to restrict and censor the media, but for the first time they have gone so far as to directly violate media freedom by closing the websites of two Afghan newspapers.”

Hasht-e-Subh, Afghanistan's most widely circulated newspaper until the Taliban's arrival, was founded by a group of journalists and human rights activists in 2007. After the Taliban took over Afghanistan on 15 August 2021, the private media stopped its print edition and limited its distribution to the website and social media, due to the economic and security situation. Zawia Media is an internet-based media which was launched in January 2019. 

“In a recent attempt, the Taliban’s Ministry of Telecommunication suspended the domain of Hasht-e Subh Daily [www.8am.af]. The domain [8am.af] was legally purchased, registered, owned, and was actively online for the last 16 years by this newspaper,” the editor-in-chief of Hasht-e-Subh (8am) Mohammad Mohaq told RSF.

Asked about the closures, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology, Enayatullah Alkozai, told reporters on 3 October that these media outlets were spreading “propaganda” against Taliban leaders, “fake news” and "unbalanced" information.

Earlier, a 28 March decree issued by the Ministry of Information and Culture, banned privately-owned TV channels from retransmitting news programmes provided by international broadcasters – BBC, Voice of America and Deutsche Welle – in local languages.

According to the RSF report marking one year of media operations under the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the media landscape has been heavily impacted by the Taliban takeover. Although four new media outlets have been created since 15 August 2021, Afghanistan has lost 219 of the 547 media outlets it used to have.

The Taliban adopted new repressive regulations and do not respect Afghanistan’s press freedom law, specially the media law that was promulgated in March 2015 although, when questioned by RSF in February, government spokesman and deputy information and culture minister Zabihullah Mujahid claimed that this press law was still in effect. 

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