February 13, 2023
ISLAMABAD — Economic hardship and media restrictions stemming from the 2021 return to power of Afghanistan’s Taliban have reportedly forced approximately 34% of radio stations to shutter operations in the country, rendering hundreds of men and women jobless.
The Afghan Independent Journalists Union (AIJU), a Kabul-based local media monitor, released the figures Monday to mark World Radio Day.
AIJU President Hujatullah Mujadidi told VOA that 345 radio channels were operating in the country before the Taliban takeover in August 2021, employing nearly 5,000 people, 25% of them women.
But 117 stations have since ceased broadcasting due to economic problems, Mujadidi said, adding that 1,900 people, more than half of them women, subsequently lost their jobs.
The remaining 228 stations employ more than 1,800 workers, including a few dozen women.
International sanctions on Taliban leaders and the suspension of financial assistance have deepened economic troubles in the largely aid-dependent country, multiplying challenges facing the Afghan media industry.
Critics say increasing censorship and alleged abuses of journalists by Taliban authorities have severely undermined the Afghan free press.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported last November that more than 200 journalists had suffered “arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment, threats, and intimidation” since the Taliban retook the country.
Hundreds of Afghan journalists have since fled to neighboring Pakistan and other countries, fearing reprisals for their critical reporting while the Taliban were waging a deadly insurgency against the United States-backed former Afghan government in Kabul.
Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders says within the first three months of the Taliban takeover in 2021, 43% of Afghan media outlets were shuttered, and 84% of female journalists lost their jobs.
Taliban authorities reject the accusations of abuse and blame the closures on lack of funding. Critics question that assertion.
The Taliban recently blocked access to VOA’s Pashto and Dari sites and the websites for Azadi Radio, run by VOA’s sister network, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Taliban officials have not yet commented on the allegations they blocked the VOA sites.
On Sunday, chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at a televised event in Kabul that foreign media outlets that “only publish negative news” and “don’t reflect [Taliban] achievements” would not be allowed to operate. He did not elaborate.
The Islamist rulers are also under fire for their sweeping restrictions on Afghan women, who are barred from receiving an education and from most workplaces in the country.
No foreign government has yet granted legitimacy to the Taliban regime over human rights concerns, especially the treatment of Afghan women.