Kabul, Sep 10 (EFE).- Violence against journalists has been on rise in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over the country in mid-August, with multiple reports of detentions and torture of media personnel in recent days.
On Sep.7, while covering a mass protest in support of the National Resistance Front in Panjshir and against Pakistani support to the insurgents, numerous journalists were arrested and 14 of them were beaten up by the Taliban.
Among the victims were Hayat Hamidi (name changed), a reporter for a well-known private news channel, and his cameraman.
They were covering the protests near the presidential palace in Kabul, when around 100 armed Taliban members started firing warning shots and attacking the demonstrators and journalists present.
“We started to run, but Taliban captured us, threw us to the ground and handcuffed us. They started punching and kicking our face, head and body,” Hamidi said.
They were then thrown on the back of a truck and transferred to the compound of the National Directorate of Security (NDS, the Afghan intelligence agency), where the Taliban tortured and interrogated them.
“They kept us for three hours inside the NDS compound, where they insulted us and beat us until a Taliban spokesperson came and mediated our release on the condition that we should not again cover illegal protests,” the journalist said.
On their release, the Taliban told them “we forgive you this time, but after this you don’t have the permission to cover the illegal protests,” he said.
Hamidi had to be admitted to a hospital for internal injuries, and a bone on his chest was found broken. He has since been advised rest and is not able to resume work.
“Freedom of the press is under threat. Taliban are trying to silence the media and are applying their own conservative rules on us,” the journalist said, adding that the recent developments have left him “deeply depressed” and under a lot of stress.
Reporters and photojournalists of the news channel Tolo were among others to face a similar fate.
A day later, two reporters of the investigative journalism newspaper Etilaatroz were severely flogged with cables and tortured, leaving them hospitalized and unable to walk.
“In a period of four hours, they lost consciousness four times. It could have ended up in their deaths. They were tortured for a long time and very mercilessly,” tweeted Etilaatroz’s owner Zaki Daryabi.
There have been increasing reports of violence against journalists across Afghanistan, including the provinces of Herat (west), Kunduz (north) and Badakhshan (northeast), among others, over the last few days.
The nonprofit Reporters without Borders sternly denounced these abuses and urged the Taliban “to respect international law and journalists’ physical integrity.”
Freedom of speech was among the most significant achievements of the Afghan government in the past 20 years under the NATO occupation of the country, during which private media outlets enjoyed unprecedented growth. EFE