As the Taliban seize control of Afghanistan, international news organizations struggle to stay safe and continue reporting. Local journalists, on the other hand, may be in greater danger.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Afghan journalists are in grave danger as a result of the Taliban’s takeover. After President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, militants took control of the presidential palace in Kabul on Sunday.
According to Reuters, suspected Taliban fighters killed an Afghan radio station manager in Kabul last week, instilling fear in the community’s journalists.
On Sunday’s “Reliable Sources,” CNN’s chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward told CNN’s chief media correspondent Brian Stelter that Afghan journalists, particularly women, are “absolutely petrified.” “They’ve been doing bold and incredible reporting for many years, and now there’s a very real fear that they might face retaliations for that or that certainly they won’t be able to do their work anymore.”
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), at least three female Afghan journalists have been murdered this year, with one being shot dead by a gunman in December 2020.
“RSF is deeply concerned that the troop withdrawal will create an information vacuum and that the space for journalism will dwindle or disappear entirely,” said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire last month. “It is absolutely clear that there will be no lasting peace in Afghanistan without a purposeful commitment to the protection of journalists and to press freedom from the authorities.”
Many independent newsrooms in Afghanistan are “pretty much hunkered down at the moment,” Ward said, adding that “there is a sense of real concern that things could get chaotic on the streets.”
Despite the fact that “there is no sense at the moment that Western journalists are being targeted,” Ward said her CNN crew had moved their live shot location indoors to avoid “attracting a lot of attention.”
Danish Siddiqui, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for Reuters, was killed in clashes near Kandahar, Afghanistan, just last month. Siddiqui, based in Mumbai, was the news agency’s chief photographer in India.
There are still fears that insurgents will target local reporters for retaliation. “Some of these journalists and reporters know that they have a big X on their backs … because they have been so outspoken against the Taliban,” Ward said.
Ward said CNN crews in Afghanistan are being “extremely cautious” and will leave if necessary. But “for so many Afghans, that’s simply not an option. They’re here, they have to stay, they have to live with the consequences of this next chapter.”