CPJ urges Afghan Taliban to revoke ban on women-run radio

— CPJ/APP/File 

NEW YORK: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) — an independent watchdog body— on Friday urged the Taliban-led Kabul government to review its decision to allow women-run Radio Sada-e-Banowan to continue its work and called on the authorities to stop the crackdown against the local media in the country.

The Taliban authorities in Faizabad — a city in Badakhshan province — had shuttered the broadcaster’s operations and sealed its office on Thursday, according to news reports and an employee of the radio station who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, the media watchdog said in a statement.

The officers at the scene, from the Taliban’s Directorate of Information and Culture and Directorate of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, accused the outlet of illegally airing music during the holy month of Ramadan.

According to CPJ, the radio station employee who spoke to the watchdog said she was not aware that any music had been aired, and believed that the decision was retaliation for the station’s programmes focusing on women’s education and job opportunities in Badakhshan.

“The Taliban should immediately reverse its decision shuttering the Radio Sada-e-Banowan broadcaster and allow the outlet to reopen and work freely,” CPJ Asia Programme Coordinator Beh Lih Yi, said in a statement.

“The Taliban have deprived Afghan women of everything from jobs to education. Shutting down a women-run radio station shows there is no reprieve for the Afghan media even during the holy month of Ramadan. The Taliban must correct its course and stop cracking down on journalism, ” she added

Radio Sada-e-Banowan was established in 2014 and is owned by Afghan female journalist Najla Shirzad. Local Taliban officials allowed the radio station to restart operations not long after the group retook power. It has six employees, according to the person who spoke to CPJ.

CPJ said it contacted Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid for comment via messaging app but did not receive any response.

In August 2022, CPJ published a special report about the media crisis in Afghanistan, showing a rapid deterioration in press freedom since the Taliban retook control of the country one year earlier, marked by censorship, arrests, assaults, and restrictions on women journalists.

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