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Media environment: Two outlets suspended and other journalists arrested

The Afghan media landscape has been under sustained pressure since the Taliban takeover, with the closure of two TV channels linked to political parties and a series of journalist detentions in recent weeks, indicating the Taliban's ongoing efforts to control the media landscape.


13 May 2024

Photo: © Afghan Witness The Afghan media environment has massively changed since the Taliban seized power in August 2021. Although the Taliban did not repeal the Mass Media Law or the Access to Information Law, enacted by the former Afghan government, the de facto authorities issued 17 directives between 18 August 2021 and 24 February 2024, contradicting these laws and imposing restrictions on media and journalists. 

According to the Afghanistan Journalists Centre (AFJC), over the last solar year alone (late March 2023 - late March 2024), the Taliban detained 59 journalists and media staff. Similarly, AW recorded the alleged detention of 132 journalists and media personnel between 15 January 2022 and 31 March 2024 in Afghanistan. Moreover, citing Afghanistan National Journalists Union, in March 2023, Tolo News reported that since the Taliban takeover, 50% of media outlets had closed down, and 53% of media workers had lost their jobs. A lack of funding and financial resources are among the most common reasons for the shrinking media landscape in the country, along with the Taliban’s censorship, restrictions, and ongoing persecution of media workers. 

Closure of two TV channels affiliated with two political parties

On 16 April 2024, Amu TV and the Taliban-run Bakhar News Agency (BNA) posted remarks from two members of the Media Complaints and Rights Violations Commission, which announced the “temporary suspension” of Barya TV and Noor TV, for not adhering to “national and Islamic principles and values and journalistic principles.” In footage shared online, two members of the Commission, Head of Tolo News Zabiullah Sadat and President of the Afghanistan Journalists Union Hafizullah Barakzai, speaking in Pashto and Farsi respectively, said the decision was made that day at the Commission meeting, and noted that both media outlets will remain closed until a court decree permitted them to reopen. 

Noor TV was established in 2007, and is affiliated with Salahuddin Rabbani, the Head of the Jamiat-e-Islami party. AW has noted that despite the channel's closure, its website and YouTube account remain accessible; however, the last show was posted on 16 April 2024. The channel appeared to have complied with the Taliban’s restrictions concerning the appearance of female journalists on air – the programmes available on its YouTube channel mostly consisted of male journalists and commentators, while women guests and commentators appeared wearing facemasks. The channel, however, referred to the Taliban as “the caretaker government” instead of “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, the language that is used by Tolo News and other media outlets. The Taliban reportedly issued a directive in September 2021, requesting the media refer to them as “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” AW investigators also noted that Noor TV reported on the International Women Peace Security Forum, conducted in Kosovo on 15 April 2024, in which the Government of Kosovo awarded Afghan women activists a Courage Award. AW assesses that the coverage of such an event is controversial, as the awardees were members of the women’s protest movement; the Taliban has clamped down on this movement, and reportedly prevented several women from travelling to Kosovo to attend the event. 

Barya TV channel was reportedly established in 2019, and is owned by the Hizb-e Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Unlike Noor TV, Barya TV’s website is no longer accessible, as shown below.

Figure: Screenshot of a message on the Barya TV website saying the website has been suspended.

Barya TV’s YouTube channel’s most recent post also dates to 16 April 2024. Meanwhile, Hizb-e Islami affiliates and supporters reportedly denounced the closure, referring to the recent friction and discontent between the Taliban and Hekmatyar as the main reason behind it. Daily Shahadat, another Hizb-e Islami media outlet, also reacted to Barya TV’s suspension on its website and X account. On 22 April 2024, Daily Shahadat posted a sarcastic caption on X, with a link to its website: “The decision of the government of the Islamic Emirate of the Taliban: Tolo TV is a television committed to Islam and the country's national values. Barya TV is not a television committed to Islam and the country's national values. Thus, Barya TV is banned.” Tolo TV, Tolo News, and several other media and communication companies are sister entities under the MOBY Group, founded and owned by Saad Mohseni. Tolo TV and Tolo News were two of the most renowned TV channels with a liberal point of view prior to the Taliban takeover. Following the takeover, however, the channels have changed, and demonstrate staunch compliance with the Taliban’s media policies, restrictions, and censorship. On 23 April 2024, Shahadat Daily shared another post disparaging Tolo, and questioned the Taliban’s shutdown of Barya TV, with a caption that read: “The Headquarters of Tolo TV, a branch of the MOBY Group, is located in Israel.” 

The Taliban closed Noor TV and Barya TV two weeks after Minister of Justice Abdul Hakim Sharai stressed the Taliban’s ban on political parties in a press conference. Sharai said: “According to Taliban law, even using the word ‘party’ is a crime.” Concurrently, on 7 April 2024, the Taliban’s Ministry of Justice announced the referral of two political parties and 75 charitable organisations for investigation, due to “illegal activities.” 

Detention of four journalists in Ghazni and Khost provinces

Taliban intelligence services reportedly detained Habibur Rahman Taseer, a Radio Azadi reporter, in Ghazni province on 6 April 2024. According to the AFJC, the Taliban relocated Taseer to Ghazni Provincial Prison after he spent 12 days in their intelligence detention centre. Amid condemnation of the detention, Hadullah Nisar, the Taliban’s Head of the provincial department of the Ministry Information and Culture in Ghazni, claimed Taseer was detained for “insulting Islamic sanctities and values,” rather than for his work as a journalist. On 18 April 2024, the Hindokush Ghag, a pro-Taliban media outlet, published a voice clip attributed to Taseer, in which he curses a mullah, “his mosque, madrasa and those who go to the mosque.” AW investigators observed pro-Taliban accounts sharing the audio widely on social media. Meanwhile, sources told Afghanistan International that the Taliban detained Taseer for his work, and had obtained the voice message from his WhatsApp account after confiscating his phone and other devices. The Taliban removed the Radio Azadi radio from the airwaves in December 2022 and subsequently restricted access to its website in Afghanistan in February 2023. 

On 21 April 2024, the Taliban reportedly detained three journalists in Khost province for allegedly answering women’s calls and playing music. In a letter issued in February 2024, the Taliban’s Ministry of Interior Affairs banned women from making calls to the media, stating that this was “immoral” and asking local media to abstain from engaging with female callers. According to AFJC and media reports, the three journalists, Ismail Sadat, Wahidullah Masoom, and Ehsanullah Tasal, worked for local radio stations, Naz, Iqra and Wolas Ghag, respectively. All three were reportedly detained by the Taliban’s provincial Department of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Evil. 

On 28 April 2024, the AFJC reported that the Taliban had released the three reporters. However, Radio’s Azadi’s Taseer remains in the Taliban detention and on 25 April 2024, Hamasa Media posted an update, stating that the Taliban had sentenced Taseer to two and a half years in prison. AW has been unable to verify this update, as this news has not been covered or confirmed by any other Afghan media or watchdog thus far. 


The Afghan media environment has shrunk immensely since the Taliban takeover, with the de facto authorities censoring the media, imposing restrictions, and detaining media staff and journalists. The Taliban’s recent closure of two TV channels, owned by two major Afghan political parties, adds another layer of complexity to the Taliban’s crackdown on media and political opponents. The ongoing detention of journalists demonstrates the Taliban’s scrutiny of Afghanistan’s media environment, and that they are actively monitoring media and journalists for violations of directives. This monitoring appears to be mainly carried out by the intelligence services, provincial departments of the Ministry of Information and Culture and the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Evil.

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