The images of two Afghan journalists tortured by the Taliban for covering a protest have set off alarms in Afghanistan , which since it fell into Islamist hands on August 15 has seen arrests and attacks on reporters multiply, threatening the fragile freedom of press .
Arrested, tortured, whipped, or sent with broken bones to the hospital , 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 Islamists. Although they have maintained a relatively cordial relationship with the international press, amid 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 greatest crackdown on the press, dozens of reporters covered a protest by thousands of civilians in Kabul in favor of the opposition movement in Panjshir province and against Pakistan’s alleged support for the Taliban. During that day at least 14 press workers were beaten and arrested by the Islamist forces, who released them with the order not to cover another “illegal” protest.
One of the victims was a reporter for a local news channel, who had been assigned 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, ” the reporter told Efe, who requested anonymity, and assured that the accompanying camera suffered the same fate.
Later, he added, they were “thrown into the back of a truck” and then transferred to a headquarters of the NDS , Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency. Tied in handcuffs behind their backs, the reporters were questioned twice, in recorded and written statements, while being insulted and beaten by the Taliban, he said.
“They kept us for three hours inside the NDS compound, where they insulted and beat us until a Taliban spokesperson arrived and mediated our release on the condition that we do not cover the illegal protests again, ” the journalist said.
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 lamented, while he remained at home recovering. With the return of the Islamists 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.
And it is that during the last week, when the protests in favor of the opposition forces increased, adding to previous ones of women , journalists and local media have reported attacks and arrests of their teams and workers, among them the Tolo news channel or the research medium Etilaatroz.
The images of the Etilaatroz journalists after the torture 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 the detention, the journalists were “tortured for a long time and without mercy,” he added. 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.
The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organization has “strongly” condemned these attacks in Afghanistan and urged “respect for international law and the physical integrity of journalists.” Freedom of expression has been one of the main achievements in the last 20 years after the overthrow of the Taliban, a flourishing period, previously unthinkable, that allowed the modernization of the country and the emergence of the media.v