Many Indian journalists were charged under the sedition act, some were brutally murdered and others languished in jail for executing their right to speak and freedom of the press. Across the globe, the situation is not different.
A few hours ago, upsetting images of journalists displaying injuries sustained after being beaten by the Taliban have underlined global concerns over the hardline Islamist group, and its ability to deliver on promises to protect human rights and guarantee freedom of the press as it forms a new Afghan government.
At least two such images have surfaced in the aftermath of the group announcing that government and have been shared by verified Twitter handles, including in one post by Marcus Yam (a foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times) and another by Etilaatroz (an Afghan news publication). Images tweeted by Yam show two men stripped to their underwear and standing with their backs to the camera. Their backs and legs are covered with what appear to be red welts and bruises.
— اطلاعات روز | Etilaatroz (@Etilaatroz) September 8, 2021
— Zaki Daryabi (@ZDaryabi) September 9, 2021
According to Etilaatroz, Mr Daryabi and Mr Naqdi – a video editor and a reporter – were covering a protest led by women in the Kart-e-Char area of western Kabul on Wednesday, when they were abducted by the Taliban, taken to different rooms and beaten and tortured.
“One of the Taliban put his foot on my head, crushed my face against the concrete. They kicked me in the head… I thought they were going to kill me,” Naqdi told news agency AFP.
He told AFP he was accosted by a Taliban fighter as soon as he started taking pictures of the rally by women demanding the right to work and education.
“They told me ‘You cannot film’… They arrested all those who were filming and took their phones. The Taliban started insulting me, kicking me,” he said, adding that when he asked why he was being beaten, he was told: “You are lucky you weren’t beheaded”.
In the recent past, an Indian journalist was also killed by the Taliban. According to the LA Times the Taliban also stopped its journalists from photographing the protesting women; the foreign correspondents, however, were only forced to leave the area.
The LA Times also said three other journalists, including the local head of Euronews, a pan-European TV news network headquartered in France, were also abducted. They were later released unharmed, although the Euronews head was repeatedly slapped.
Several other journalists were also arrested – including TOLO News cameraperson Waheed Ahmady and Ariana News reporter Sami Jahesh, with cameraman Samim – as they covered the protests.
An extensive report by the Committee to Protect Journalism (CPJ) outlined more attacks. Last month another Tolo News reporter – Ziar Yaad Khan – was believed to have been killed by the Taliban, before it was confirmed that they had held him at gunpoint and assaulted him. And days before that Taliban killed a relative of a Deutsche Welle journalist while hunting for him.
The group had earlier claimed it would respect freedom of the press, but its actions yesterday and over the past weeks indicate otherwise. A spokesman for the group has already warned people against taking to the streets in protest and warned journalists that they should not cover any demonstrations.
A stark reminder of the impact the Taliban has already had on a free press was made by media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres, or Reporters Without Borders, last week, when it said active female journalists in Kabul are below 100 since the group seized power, compared with 700 before. The make-up of the new government has led to further concerns.
The Taliban had promised an inclusive government that would reflect the ethnic identities that form the country, but all top positions were handed to key leaders from the movement and the Haqqani network — the group’s most violent branch and one known for devastating attacks.
The post of the interior minister – equivalent to the Home Ministry post in India – was given to Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is wanted by the United States FBI. None of the government appointees was a woman. The Taliban’s first period in power was replete with horrific stories of brute force and disregard for human rights, particularly those of women and children. The second – a Taliban 2.0 – was supposed to be different.
Senior journalist Sudhesh Baliga said, “Journalists’ conditions are not better in India also so we should not act overwhelmingly. India is harvesting somewhat the same kind of people.”
Manojit Saurabh freelance media reporter said, “Australia has brought new laws to sue media that use these false stories claiming it is from a third party. The Western media use such propaganda to demonize leaders and their governments. There should be an international law that media who fabricate such stories and pictures must be prosecuted. The media always claims it is from a third party.”
Pallavi Ganatra Media PR said, “The news report, as well as the videos about Afghan Journalists beaten by Taliban for covering women’s protests, was really sad and horrifying. These Taliban are never to be trusted. Even though they had promised that they would respect other religions, they have proved to be liars and doing exactly what their religion is teaching them to do. It’s very sad that other countries, especially the USA, had withdrawn their troops from that soil very fast as if they were present there, these incidents would not have happened.”