After concerns about the intra-Afghan peace talks leading to media restrictions, the Presidential Palace (Arg) said the government will “strongly support” the freedom of media during the peace process.
Presidential spokesperson Seddiq Seddiqi tweeted on Sunday that the government will defend the “core values of our Republic” which include the freedom of expression and the media.
“Afghanistan government will hold a principled position in the talks, formed by the values of our open society and gains of the past 19 years,” Sediqqi wrote.
“The Taliban must not look into an alternative, [it is] better [for Taliban to] adhere to the reality,” he added.
Peace talks and media concerns about restrictions
Najib Sharifi, chairman of the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC), told a news conference on Sunday, that the peace talks had raised concerns in the Afghan media about the restrictions on the freedom of expression.
He said that the Afghan government’s behaviour in the first six months of this year with the amendments to the media law, and the Taliban’s opposition to media freedom, has undermined confidence in the future of freedom of expression.
Sharifi noted that the AJSC is working on a comprehensive and effective plan, which will urge the government’s negotiating team to engage the Taliban on the topic of freedom of expression and media.
The AJSC head also called on the government to defend the freedom of expression and media as “non-negotiable values” during the peace talks with the Taliban.
Taliban and IS perpetrators of most violence against journalists
The chairman of the AJSC announced the six-month report of the committee and said they had noted 42 cases of violence against journalists, including two murders, 11 injuries, six beatings, nine insults and humiliation.
Seven cases of threats, four cases of kidnapping, two cases of theft, and one case of non-payment of salary were also recorded.
According to their report, seven of the victims of violence were women.
Among the perpetrators, the Taliban and IS are responsible for 18 cases, the majority, of violence and threats against journalists.
“At the same time, it should be noted that due to the severity of the violence and criminal behaviour, what the Taliban and ISIL did to journalists was far more severe and serious than government actions,” the report found.
According to the AJSC, there have been 13 cases of violence against journalists by government officials, including three cases of violence, two cases of thefts, five cases by unknown individuals and another by a media house.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the report noted that there had been severe economic repercussion to media houses in the past few months. Several had laid off many employees or given them unpaid leave due to financial issues, and dozens of outlets were on the brink of collapse.