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Digest: World media on press in Afghanistan before and after the Taliban takeover

The future of the achievements of the last 20 years is unclear

Under Taliban rule from 1996-2001 Afghanistan’s media landscape basically didn’t exist. Television, music and cinema were banned. Any press was fully controlled by the regime. Newspapers were picture free. 

After the U.S.-led NATO intervention in Afghanistan, which displaced the Taliban, Afghans gained access to television with multiple news channels and newly opened FM radio stations. Mobile phone ownership spread and people began to earn university degrees in journalism

We’ve collected the reports and articles that bring us closer to the evolution of the Afghanistan media landscape and to its current situation.

Asmayee, known as “TV mountain” in Kabul; photo by Farid Ershad on Unsplash

History and analysis of media in Afghanistan

BBC Policy Briefing from 2012, “The media of Afghanistan: The challenges of transition” – Summary of Afghanistan’s media development from 2001-2012, taking into account the political, cultural and economic context. BBC tells the story of key players across different media divisions and forecasts further development of the industry. 

Afghanistan profile on Media Landscapes, curated by the European Journalism Centre – Overview of Afghan media until 2021, containing the country’s position in international rankings, and analysis of zones closely related to the media: education, policies, telecommunications and traditional forms of communication. Each chapter includes a detailed list of helpful sources for further research on the topic.

Afghanistan profile – Media by BBC – A brief description of the media market up until the moment the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021.

Afghanistan profile on Reporters Without Borders (RSF) – An ongoing monitoring of the situation on which the World Press Freedom Index is based, numbers of journalists killed this year and the latest RSF publications on Afghanistan.

More from The Fix: UNESCO report on journalism safety — key takeaways

The impact of the Taliban on media and key events in 2021

“Taliban Shuts Down Afghanistan’s Independent Media In Newly Gained Territory” by GandharaReport on repressions against regional independent media by the Taliban from April 8 to August 5, 2021. More and more has also been written about the role of social media in Taliban operations and challenges for the platforms in propaganda limitation. You can read about it in Reuters, Forbes and NPR (audio version is also available).

“Fewer Women, No Entertainment: Kabul’s Media Scene Transforms After Taliban Takeover” by Gandhara, a project of Radio Free Europe – A brief report on the first Taliban press conference on August 17, and analysis of the changes that took place on TV and radio in the weeks before the conference.

“Afghanistan: Mysterious Taliban spokesman finally shows his face” by BBC – Brief overview of the press conference, video and the reaction of the international community to the performance of Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.“Taliban tell RSF they will respect press freedom, but how can we believe them?” by Reporters without Borders – Forecasts for the future of Afghan media, based on its comparison with history and recent events. This news was followed a week later by another article, “New (unofficial) oppressive rules imposed on journalists in Afghanistan”, confirming the concerns about increasing media freedom restrictions.

Interviews with Saad Mohseni, chief executive of Moby Media Group – the biggest private media group in Afghanistan, have appeared in Politico, ABC News and The Washington Post.  The country’s most influential media executive commented on the meaning of the first Taliban reforms for the media, women and Afghanistan’s younger generation.

High profile crimes against media industry members in 2021, including the murder of Danish Siddiqui, a Pulitzer-winning photographer, and Dawa Khan Menapal, the director of Afghanistan’s media and information centre, were covered by NPR and BBC. Later, on August 26, Al Jazeera reported an attack on Ziar Khan Yaad, a reporter from TOLO TV – the largest TV channel in Afghanistan, and also part of the Moby Group.

For stories about the fate of female journalists in Afghanistan, you can read The Guardian, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Al Jazeera

More from The Fix: Weekly Digest: Coming to Grips With New Reality

Photo by matt brown on Unsplash


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