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Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Afghanistan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1999
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Afghanistan, February 1999, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c5655be.html [accessed 30 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

As of December 31, 1998

In this country decimated by 20 years of civil war, few freedoms of any kind are tolerated and there is no independent local press. In the two years since the ultraconservative Islamist Taliban militia took control of Kabul, the nation's capital, the regime has consolidated its hold over most of the country. The Taliban's rule has been marked by the stringent application of its version of Islamic law: Women are confined to their homes, unless they can be escorted by a close male relative, and enshrouded from head-to-toe in a burqa gown. Public executions are held on Fridays in a sports stadium before an audience of thousands. Kabul's streets are vigorously patrolled by squads deployed by the Ministry for the Enforcement of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice, ensuring that citizens adhere to the myriad rules prohibiting everything from watching television to kite-flying.

The Taliban runs the Radio Voice of Shari'ah, which broadcasts propaganda, recitations of Koranic verses, and poems in praise of Allah's law. At least one radio station, Takhar Radio, is run by an anti-Taliban faction headed by Gen. Ahmed Shah Massoud from his stronghold in the northeastern city of Taloquan, but its broadcasting range is limited.

Foreign correspondents allowed into the country by the Taliban must be accompanied by a government minder, and are forbidden to photograph people or to speak to women. Journalists say that, in fact, the rules are haphazardly enforced. Many journalists have attempted to skirt the Taliban's restrictions by disguising their reason for visiting the country. But this became more difficult after foreign aid workers were expelled from Afghanistan at the end of September, raising the visibility of any outsider.

Although there have been sporadic attacks against foreign journalists – including beatings, detentions, and expulsions – victims are loath to report attacks and thereby jeopardize their relationship with the Taliban. The murder of Iranian journalist Mahmoud Saremi, however, gained international attention.

Stationed in Mazar-i-Sharif as the Afghanistan bureau chief for Iran's official news agency, IRNA, Saremi was killed along with a group of Iranian diplomats when the Taliban took over the city in early August. Human rights observers believe his assassination was an attempt to block news of the subsequent massacres there.

Some veteran journalists feel that, Saremi's murder notwithstanding, they are in less physical danger now than they were during the years of widespread civil war, when attacks could come from any one of numerous militias.

Attacks on the Press in Afganistan in 1998

DateJournalistIncident
08/08/98Mahmoud Saremi, Afghanistan bureau chief, IRNAKilled
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