Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2018, 13:56 GMT

2012 Predators of Press Freedom: Afghanistan/Pakistan - Mollah Mohammad Omar, Taliban chief

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 4 May 2012
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, 2012 Predators of Press Freedom: Afghanistan/Pakistan - Mollah Mohammad Omar, Taliban chief, 4 May 2012, available at: [accessed 17 January 2018]
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.

Mullah Mohammad Omar, who likes to call himself "Commander of the Believers" and "Servant of Islam," has led the many factions of the Afghan Taliban since 1994. Nowadays he also has a lot of support in Pakistan and heads the Pakistan-based Taliban ruling council, the Rahbari Shura, which consists of himself and 10 other Talebs. Created in 2003, it encompasses four regional shuras and 10 committees. The present chief of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsud, owes allegiance to Omar.

The Taliban, who control many regions of Afghanistan, spread terror by kidnapping journalists, by suicide attacks and by the use of improvised explosive devices. The use of terror enables the Taliban to control the population, and creates virtual information blackouts in southern and eastern Afghanistan and in western Pakistan.

Although the Taliban finally released two French hostages, France 3 journalists Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier, in June 2011 after holding them for 18 months, they are responsible for a growing number of murders of civilians and journalists.

In eastern Afghanistan, Jafar Vafa, a young journalist with radio Aleh Ghosh, was killed by an IED in November 2011. Before him, Rupert Hamer, correspondent of the British Sunday Mirror newspaper, and Michelle Lang of the Canadian Calgary Herald newspaper, were killed in similar fashion. Taliban members do not hesitate to execute journalists in broad daylight and in front of onlookers. On 17 January 2012, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan murdered Mukarram Khan Atif, a journalist for Deewa Radio, while he was at prayer in a mosque in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Despite the differences and borders between them, these criminal groups are united in their campaign – waged in the name of religion – to stamp out freedom of the press and access to information. Their presence constitutes a permanent threat to journalists. Terror marks the regions they control, where the remaining journalists practice self-censorship to survive.

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