Afghan women’s voices are suppressed as the Taliban tightens media control — a global issue
Taliban decrees impose a ban on radio broadcasting on Afghan women, further restricting press freedom. Credit: Let’s learn together.
  • interpress service
  • The author is a female journalist based in Afghanistan who was trained with help from Finland before the Taliban took over.Her identity has not been published for security reasons

The Taliban recently decreed that women’s voices cannot be broadcast on the radio in four provinces: Khost, Logar, Helmand and Paktia.

Women and men must be separated from each other within media houses, and women are even prohibited from calling radio stations during social discussion programs to seek solutions to their problems.

Halima, a presenter at one of the radio stations, said the stations are constantly monitored by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue, even when there are no male employees. “Every time they come, they warn us not to laugh or joke on the show, because it’s a big sin,” she says.

“There used to be 45,000 women journalists and media workers in Afghanistan,” said Ahmad, a media activist whose name has been withheld. Many women journalists lost their jobs due to the loss of economic opportunities. Last year, a significant 87 percent of female journalists left the industry. ”

Ahmad said the Taliban do not allow women’s voices to be broadcast on the radio in eastern provinces, while they do not allow journalists to take photographs in southern provinces. This is because it is a big crime for the Taliban.

At the end of February, the Afghanistan Journalists Center sent out information to media outlets, stating that Mohammad Khaled Hanafi, acting Minister for the Promotion of Virtue, strictly prohibited women from working in the media if they appear on TV programs. warned that it would be prohibited.on TV or in an interview. A representative of the ministry reportedly brandished a sample photo of a properly dressed woman with only her eyes peeking out from behind a hijab.

Currently, only seven media companies are run by female employees. Two of them are in Badakhshan, one in Balkh, one in Farah, one in Herat and two in Kabul. All of this faces a huge number of challenges. Although most of these media houses are symbolically run in the name of women, important media jobs and decision-making remain in the hands of men.

In Helmand province, women are completely banned from appearing on television and their voices are not allowed to be heard on the radio. According to local newspaper Hasht Sob, Abdul Rashid Omari, the Taliban security commander in Khost province, told local media members that they would be prosecuted if they allowed girls and women to call radio stations. warned in an official letter.

“Some private radio stations in the host states promote moral corruption, exemplified by broadcasting school lessons and social programs in which large numbers of female students participate,” the letter said. There is. Furthermore, “by abusing these educational and social programs, girls are making illegal phone calls with program organizers during official and unofficial times, which on the one hand leads society to moral corruption. guidance, and on the other hand, contrary to Islamic standards.”

There isn’t much room for the media in Afghanistan, laments Hrishta (whose name has been withheld). It is difficult for her to breathe, but despite these restrictions she continues to do her job.

“It is true that I am in charge of a radio station, but I never get to make the important decisions about its operation. The owner of a radio is always a man, and he makes the decisions. We produce the show as per the guidelines and it is an order,” says Hrishta.

But Hrishta is persistent because several international organizations provide financial support for women’s work in radio and television, and the money is badly needed. It also includes UN agencies, UNICEF and UNESCO, and supports 28 local radio stations across the country in publishing humanitarian information and training programmes. Additionally, the EU-funded project “Supporting Afghan Media Resilience to Promote Peace and Security” supported several women’s radio stations to produce educational, cultural and news programs.

In addition to the ever-decreasing space for women in the media, the Taliban are suppressing the media in every possible way. For example, Yousef Bawar (name changed), one of the journalists in the eastern zone, said that journalists from Persian-language foreign broadcasters such as Afghanistan International Television and AMU Television cannot work openly in Afghanistan. . If she is found she will be arrested and tortured. Last year, the Taliban Information and Culture Department in Nangarhar province warned journalists that anyone who criticized the Taliban would be arrested and had no right to complain of any treatment they received.

Foreign journalists coming to cover Afghanistan must obtain permission from the Taliban’s Information and Culture Department, Yousef Bawar said. Once they enter the country, they will be accompanied by Taliban members to prevent them from making negative statements about Taliban rule. The Taliban have not disclosed the charges against the foreign journalists.

Yalda (not her real name) worked as a journalist for seven years, but she couldn’t stand the situation anymore and quit her job. Yalda said the Taliban visited their offices several times a month, inspecting their work and asking managers why they were working with women.

“They warned managers on numerous occasions that if a male and female colleague were seen together, they had no right to complain to us about what happened to them,” she says. .

“The media is not allowed to report critically about the lack of facilities and services in the education and health sectors in general. They are also not allowed to criticize the government, and most of the media programs are published by the Taliban. “We’re focused on results,” says Yalda.

The collapse of the republic had a negative impact on the Afghan media, with many media outlets shutting down and many journalists losing their jobs. Previously there were 438 radio stations, but now he has reduced them to 211 stations. The number of newspapers decreased from 91 to 13. Afghanistan’s 248 television channels have now been reduced to just 68 since the Taliban took power three years ago.

However, the few surviving news organizations continue to face major challenges with the disappearance of female journalists. They suffer from a lack of timely access to information, a lack of program support, and above all direct media censorship.

The resurgence of the Taliban has posed immense challenges to all sectors, but perhaps none more serious than the suppression of media freedom and the suppression of journalists’ voices.

© Inter Press Service (2024) — All rights reservedSource: Interpress Service

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