Taliban Releases Journalists Arrested for Criticizing New Media Law

Taliban Releases Journalists Arrested for Criticizing New Media Law

After the three journalists’ release, the Taliban announced that it would not tolerate the violation of “Islamic principles.”

The Taliban-led government of Afghanistan has released three employees of TOLOnews, the nation’s largest television network, after arresting them last week for criticizing the country’s new laws restricting the broadcast of foreign television programs.

Khpalwak Sapai, news director for TOLOnews, and Nafay Khaleeq, the station’s legal adviser, were both arrested by Taliban authorities on Thursday before being released later that evening. Bahram Aman, a news anchor for the network, was held overnight and released the following day, according to Al Jazeera.

The journalists appeared undeterred by their brush with the country’s new ruling authorities; Aman insisted that he would “always be the voice of the people” in a post on Facebook, while Sapai wrote that “our job is to deliver information to the people.”

The Taliban’s “Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,” or religious police, issued a ban on the broadcasting of foreign drama series, according to Moby Media Group, the owner of TOLOnews. The company claimed in a statement that its employees had publicly condemned the ban, leading to their arrests.

After the three journalists’ release, the ministry announced that it would not tolerate the violation of “Islamic principles,” accusing TOLOnews of “reporting cases that offended the religious sentiments of the community and threatened our national security.”

“In addition, the evil and vicious elements were receiving their propaganda material against the state from the contents of these media,” a statement issued by the ministry read.

The three journalists’ arrests led to condemnation around the world, and the United Nations and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) framed it as a worrying example of growing Taliban restrictions on Afghanistan’s press environment. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, wrote on Twitter that it viewed the journalists’ arrest with “deep concern.” The CPJ was more explicit in its condemnation, demanding that the Taliban “immediately … stop detaining and intimidating members of the Afghanistan press corps.”

The Taliban government’s attitude toward media outlets within the new “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” has been mixed. Foreign media outlets have largely been given the freedom to operate within Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital. At the same time, however, domestic media outlets have faced barriers to operation and have seen sharp reductions in their staffing; by some estimates, as many as half of the country’s media outlets have been shuttered since the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.

Image: Reuters.