PEC laments the shrinking space for press freedom

By: N J Thakuria

Geneva, 2 October 2021: Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), the Geneva based global media rights body, laments over missing of newspapers from the stands across Afghanistan as most of the media managements shifted to online space after the arrival of Taliban forces in the capital city of Kabul.

Expressing serious concern on the growing security threats for professional journalists in the southeast Asian country, the PEC calls upon the United Nations and the international community to urge the new government in Kabul to respect press freedom and the safety of journalists.

According to local media outlets, the press has been paralyzed particularly in Kabul, which is under the grip of Taliban once again after the fall of President Ashraf Ghani’s government on 15 August 2021. Before their advent, the ancient city used to witness a number of newspapers and other media outlets which surfaced in the last two decades to cater the need of readers, listeners and viewers.

“Overall, a total of 150 newspapers/magazines out of 500 media outlets including television & radio channels and news agencies have closed in the past month. The space for independent press and freedom of expression is shrinking day by day,” said a report in Afghanistan Times, adding that the safety & security of scribes and overall financial problems have deteriorated the situation.

The Afghan media and journalist fraternity are going through their worst time in the last 20 years and many of them have fled their nation. They feel if the international community and the Taliban do not pay attention the remaining media will also collapse very soon.

“Kabul alone had around 20 newspapers available to readers in English and local languages before the arrival of Taliban forces. Now the media persons are under severe security threats and financial crisis as most of the foreign governments & non-government offices have abandoned the country and their potential supporters have also disappeared,” said PEC general secretary Blaise Lempen.

Recently a group of around 150 Afghan journalists urged the United Nations and other international groups to ensure their protection within the backdrop of threats issued by the Taliban militants. Speaking to Nava Thakuria, PEC’s south and southeast Asia representative, an Afghan journalist revealed that the media fraternity has lost its female members as the Taliban regime is understood to maintain its harsh policy towards the women journalists all along.

The freedom of expression of Afghan journalists who fled the country in August is also limited, said an Afghan journalist, who has found refuge in Belgium during August. Talking to the PEC, he commented, “Due to the risks for my colleagues, who are still in Afghanistan, I can’t talk or write my own story now, probably another time, when they are also out of the country or at least there is no high risks for them.”

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