Kabul, Oct 1 (EFE).- Taliban officials have taken 32 journalists into custody since the Islamist group took power in Afghanistan on Aug.15, Human Rights Watch said Friday.
The global rights group alleged that the ruling extremist group imposed wide-ranging restrictions on media and free speech to stifle criticism and dissent.
Citing an unnamed head of a media advocacy group, the rights watchdog said the Taliban took at least 32 journalists into custody since they seized power in Kabul.
“Most were released after warnings about their reporting, but some were beaten,” HRW said in a statement.
As of Oct.1, at least one remained in custody without access to his family.
The nonprofit said the Taliban Ministry of Information and Culture issued regulations whose “broad and vague” provisions prohibit virtually any critical reporting about the government.
“Despite the Taliban promises to allow media that ‘respected Islamic values’ to function, the new rules are suffocating media freedom in the country,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director HRW.
“The Taliban regulations are so sweeping that journalists are self-censoring and fear ending up in prison.”
The rights group said it had seen a copy of the regulations that prohibited media from printing or broadcasting reports that “are contrary to Islam,” “insult national figures,” or “distort news content.”
The regulations ask journalists to “ensure that their reporting is balanced” and not report on “matters that have not been confirmed by officials” or issues that “could have a negative impact on the public attitude.”
The Taliban intelligence office has summoned journalists and warned them that their reporting constituted “propaganda” and needed to stop.
An editor of a media outlet led by women said they continued to publish online but stopped after the Taliban issued new regulations.
“We have lost the space for free media with the Taliban taking over the country,” she said.
“We do not have free media in Afghanistan anymore.”
A Kabul-based editor said the prohibition on “insulting national figures” could be interpreted broadly and curtail any reporting on corruption or other abuses.
Many Afghan journalists have fled the country or have gone into hiding. Scores of media outlets, especially outside major cities, have closed altogether.
Taliban commanders and fighters have long threatened, intimidated, and resorted to violence against journalists. They have allegedly been responsible for targeted killings of journalists.
“The Taliban are making it very clear they do not want to face public scrutiny,” Gossman said.
“Foreign governments should send the message that the Taliban treatment of the media will remain a core concern of future relations.” EFE