The Taliban step up war on media by silencing FM broadcasts of Radio Azadi and VOA’s

In an escalation of media repression, the Taliban have blocked the FM broadcasts of two well-known news radio stations. RSF urges the Taliban to immediately reverse this decision and to stop repressing independent media and arbitrarily arresting journalists in Afghanistan.

“The Taliban's repression and strict measures have forced the media to exercise self-censorship or to cease their activities inside the country. Therefore the existence of free media operating from outside Afghanistan is crucial in this situation,” RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk said. "After two major Afghan news websites were shut down in October, two well-known US-funded radio stations are now paying the price for the Taliban's war on the media. They must stop these attacks and give the population access to information.”

RFERL’s Afghanistan service Radio Azadi and Voice of America (VOA) have been broadcasting programs in Dari and Pashto languages throughout Afghanistan to millions of viewers for the past two decades, but no longer. 

On December 1, Abdul Haq Hammad, director of publications for the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Taliban, announced on his Twitter that FM broadcasts by the VOA were suspended in 13 of the country's 34 provinces, and that Radio Azadi’s FM broadcasts were stopped nationwide. While he accused radio stations of, among other things, "violating journalistic principles" and broadcasting biased programmes, it is clear that this is a technique used by the Taliban against media that do not follow their directives.

Eradication of information, step by step 

After regaining power in Afghanistan, the Taliban reversed one of that country's crowning achievements, the independence of the press. On 28 March, the Taliban government's Ministry of Information and Culture banned BBC, VOA and Deutsche Welle (DW) rebroadcasts in Afghanistan's indigenous languages by local media.

On 3 October 2022, the Taliban closed two major Afghan news websites : the websites of Hasht-e-Subh, founded in 2007, Afghanistan's most widely circulated newspaper until the Taliban's arrival, and the website of Zawia media. 

The Taliban also jailed the editor in chief of Hamesha-Bahar Radio and Television Network, Atal Stanekzai, in Eastern Afghanistan, Nangarhar province on 28 November 2022. The journalist was summoned by the Directorate of Information and Culture in Jalalabad for unclear reasons. He later was then arrested by the Taliban's intelligence department in that province. 

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.

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