Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, August 15th, 2020

Targeting Media Staff is War Crime

Media play an essential role in Afghanistan. Following the collapse of the Taliban regime, a number of media outlets were launched to support democratic principles and monitor the government. Afghan media outlets provided a platform for public sharing. Both officials and ordinary people are able to have their say via national media outlets.
National media are highly active in broadcasting fresh news and providing information to the public. Afghans obtain the bulk of the information from the media. Media also try to adopt an impartial attitude in broadcasting news and observe the principles of journalism.
Despite the life-threatening circumstances, Afghan media staff are always on the ground for collecting reports. They report from conflict zones and sensitive scenes.
The media are one of the pillars of democracy as they monitor the government activities and let citizens observe the facts. Since Afghan traditional media are being upgraded, they are active on social media and have their followers there. Thus, the public can easily have access to information through using the internet.
Afghan women have also active presence in national media outlets and work as reporters, writers, TV presenters, etc.
The government tries to support the freedom of expressions as well as the media and journalists. Afghan Constitution states in Article 34, “Freedom of expression shall be inviolable. Every Afghan shall have the right to express thoughts through speech, writing, illustrations as well as other means in accordance with provisions of this constitution. Every Afghan shall have the right, according to provisions of law, to print and publish on subjects without prior submission to state authorities. Directives related to the press, radio, and television as well as publications and other mass media shall be regulated by law.”
Having said this, the Taliban have issued a new threat to Afghan media and demand an immediate halt to publications of pro-government advertisements. The Taliban said in a statement that certain media outlets are publishing advertisements with the intention of disrupting the Taliban’s insurgency.
In reaction to the Taliban’s threat, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass condemned the Taliban in a tweet. He said, “Afghanistan’s vibrant media is a testament to the gains of the last 18 years. Journalism is not a crime, it is a valued public service to the world.” He added, “We call on the Taliban to stop threatening Afghan journalists.”
The Taliban and ISIS group have targeted a number of journalists within the past few years. The already hated Taliban fear that reports about their insurgency and cruel acts would jeopardize their network and bring them under international pressure. The threat issued by the Taliban suggests that the group has been pressured in one way or another.
The Taliban radical group is against democratic principles and freedom of expressions and thoughts. Since the Taliban are an infamous group across the country, they seek not to let the public have their say, especially about them. During their regime, the Taliban inflicted the most serious harm on national media outlets and left no room for freedom of expressions or thoughts. That is, the media were hibernated during the Taliban regime.
The Taliban should note that they will not be able to cover their cruel acts anymore. A large number of the youth are engaged on social media and they are able to spread news and reflect the Taliban’s terrorist activities this way. Thus, targeting journalists will not be in their interests.
The Afghan government should support media staff and protect their lives in any possible way. The vulnerability of journalists and media staff will also harm the reputation of the government.
Meanwhile, the international community should show a reaction to the Taliban’s message of threat to media staff and put pressure on them to stop targeting journalists and civilians. It is self-evident that targeting media staff is a war crime. The media staff continue their responsibility with impartiality, and they are simply reporting and reflecting the news through the power of their pens and lenses of their cameras. Hence, they have nothing to do with the conflict except for reporting.
Perhaps the Taliban seek to target civilians and media staff to put pressure on the government since their militant fighters sustain heavy casualties recently. Targeting non-combatants shows the weakness of the group and this will trigger the public anger against them.
The Taliban should understand that the media do not only report about them but also monitor the government and report the corruption and any activities going on within the government’s machinery. The government and officials are criticized severely by the public and writers through the media. After all, the media also interview the Taliban’s leaders and provide a platform for them to have their say. Thus, the media report about all layers of the society in a fair and impartial way.