Kabul [Afghanistan], October 23 (ANI): The Afghan journalists are lamenting the fact that the future of media is 'bleak' under the Taliban rule.
Earlier also Taliban suicide bombers had killed a graphic designer, video editor, set decorator, three dubbing artists and a driver who worked for TOLO's entertainment wing, reported The Frontier Post.
After that, reporting on the deaths of their colleagues by suicide bombers, unidentified gunmen and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) became a routine as the Taliban, the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K) and unknown armed groups continued to target journalists.
But all that changed on August 15 after the Taliban took control of the war-ravaged nation. "The first thing we did was send the entire female staff home," Shabir Ahmadi of TOLO TV told Al Jazeera over the phone from Europe.
They immediately stopped broadcasting music and entertainment programmes. The Turkish serials, game shows, singing competitions, talk shows and sketch comedy shows that millions of people tuned into every evening came to a sudden end, said Ahmadi.
Ahmadi said he tried to work as a journalist in the Taliban's Islamic Emirate, but it quickly became clear that would be too difficult. There were reports of the Taliban torturing journalists, confiscating their equipment, beating them on the streets of main cities, jailing them for weeks at a time and instituting new restrictive media laws, reported The Frontier Post.
By September, Ahmadi was among hundreds of other Afghan journalists and media workers, including his TOLO colleagues, who had fled the country.
The exodus of journalists has led to serious questions about the future of the media in Afghanistan, where a free press was one of the few real gains to come out of 20 years of Western occupation, reported The Frontier Post.
Steven Butler, the Asia programme coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), says the current media situation in Afghanistan resembles that of Myanmar.
Like Afghanistan, Myanmar also experienced a recent political upheaval that saw the end of a controversial semi-democratic Western-supported government and led to an immediate flight of the country's media workers.
Butler fears that, like Myanmar, the future of Afghanistan's media is "bleak", but he understands why so many journalists left both the countries, operating in exile, reported The Frontier Post.
For Ahmadi, the flight of journalists is especially difficult to bear because the media was one industry where thousands of young people felt heard and challenged at the same time.
Butler says CPJ is trying to establish contacts with the Taliban to advocate for the rights of the Afghan reporters, but that has proven difficult so far.
He says the Islamic Emirate promises it will investigate matters, but has yet to present any actual findings.
That commitment to free media came under renewed scrutiny when CPJ reported the Taliban beat three journalists covering a small women's protest in one of the busiest areas of Kabul, reported The Frontier Post.
Once again, the organisation said the Taliban did not respond to their requests for comment on the incident, which came just a month after the group detained, beat and flogged journalists covering a similar demonstration.
Likewise, journalists also recalled being stopped by the Taliban from reporting from the northern province of Panjshir where an armed resistance against the group started after it took over Kabul.
In a recent report, the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) described the killing of a journalist by unknown gunmen and seizures of two media outlets in the east and the north as examples of the Islamic Emirate failing to ensure the safety of the media.
Like CPJ, the AJSC also says the Taliban has failed to provide details of promised investigations into abuses against journalists, reported The Frontier Post. (ANI)