Conflicts & War

Press paralyzed as no newspaper on Kabul stands month after Taliban arrival

Kabul, Sep 17 (EFE).- It has been more than a month, and not a single newspaper has hit the stands in the Afghan capital since the Taliban seized power in Kabul.

No local daily has gone to print as news publishers have stopped operations due to security concerns and a back-breaking financial crisis after President Ashraf Ghani’s government collapsed on Aug.15.

Some 20 newspapers were available on Kabul newsstands before the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan after two decades of war with foreign troops and the Afghan army.

“You cannot even find one newspaper in the market nowadays,” Nasir Noori, who works with media watchdog Nai, told EFE.

Noori emphasized that the space for independent media and free speech was fast shrinking in Afghanistan, which ranked 122nd in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Not that the Afghan press was among the freest in the world earlier, but it had made significant strides towards independence in its democratic pursuits.

However, whatever gains it had made were lost to the arrival of Islamist militia known to have little tolerance for a free press.

According to Nai, which supports open media in Afghanistan, 150 news outlets have closed now. Hundreds of journalists, particularly women, have lost their jobs.

The Afghanistan Times, a prominent English daily, is among the media outlets forced to stop operations.

“We have not printed for the past one month,” Nangialay Shahryar, a member of the newspaper’s executive board, told EFE.

The 12-page daily began publishing in 2006 and used to print 3,000-5,000 copies a day.

“It is the first time in the past 15 years that we have ceased our operation for such a long time,” Shahryar said.

He said “security, fear, uncertainty, financial problems and unknown Taliban policy toward media” forced the daily to down its shutters.

Subscriptions and advertisements were vital sources of revenue for the enterprise.

Shahryar said the paper lost revenue because advertisements stopped and most of the foreign offices, which subscribed to it, closed.

“We have sent home 35 of our 40 staff members. Only five are working for our Twitter and online edition,” he said.

Even if print operations resume, most employees are not ready to return due to security concerns.

“We still do not know the Taliban policy toward the print media. Fear and uncertainty make it difficult for a journalist to work,” Rafiullah Anwari, a journalist with the newspaper, told EFE.

He recalled how Taliban men beat some journalists who covered protests in Kabul a few days ago.

Noori said only 350 out of 500 media outlets, including TV, radio, and news agencies, were continuing to operate in Afghanistan now.

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