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Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Afghanistan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1998
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Afghanistan, February 1998, available at: [accessed 17 December 2017]
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.

After nearly two decades of civil war, conditions in Afghanistan are as dire as anywhere in the world. In the absence of a coherent central government or rule of law, there is virtually no press, let alone press freedom. Under the leadership of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Islamic Taliban movement, which seized the capital, Kabul, in September 1996 and controls 22 of 32 provinces, has put in place the most radical religious government in the world. The Taliban's harsh fundamentalist rule has dismantled civil institutions, closed most schools, and suppressed everything from kite-flying to public entertainment. Women in particular have suffered, becoming virtual prisoners in their own homes because of severe Taliban restrictions on their activities. Public stoning has become commonplace and bands of Taliban thugs roam the streets beating those they deem to be violators of the Sharia, or Islamic legal code.

Cameras are outlawed and any depiction of living creatures is forbidden by authorities, who describe such images as un-Islamic. Patrolling the streets in pick-up trucks, Taliban members, operating under the authority of the General Department for the Preservation of Virtue and the Elimination of Vice, search houses for weapons and in the process destroy television sets, radios, cassettes, and photographs. In late September, the Taliban police detained several journalists, including CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour, and Emma Bonino, the European Union's humanitarian affairs commissioner, when the journalists were photographing women at a hospital in Kabul.

In late August, the Taliban warned resident foreign correspondents that any "biased and false analysis" that referred to the ethnic, religious, and linguistic differences in Afghanistan would not be tolerated. The Taliban has also threatened to deport foreign reporters if they write unfavorably about the movement. Journalists visiting the capital are required to hire Taliban-approved translators and drivers and must stay in officially sanctioned hotels. There are just three foreign news organizations with offices in Afghanistan. According to Afghan journalists working in the refugee area of Peshawar in Pakistan, the only independent news reaching the portion of the country controlled by the Taliban comes from underground publications smuggled into Taliban areas and short-wave radio broadcasts by the BBC Pushto and Dari services and the Voice of America's Dari service. The Taliban-run Radio Shariat exclusively broadcasts pro-regime news reports and religious programs.

In the northern provinces, where a coalition of anti-Taliban forces have halted the expansion of the Taliban, wartime conditions mean continued risk to local and foreign journalists working in the region.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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