LONDON: Reporters Without Borders wrote on Monday to the UN’s new special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, urging him to act quickly to defend journalists and press freedom in the country.
“As the regime continues to arrest journalists and step up pressure on the media, the press freedom situation in Afghanistan must not pass under the radar of the international community’s attention,” said RSF Advocacy and Assistance Director Antoine Bernard.
“From the new UN special rapporteur on Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, we expect the maximum possible involvement in support of free, pluralist and independent journalism.”
Bennett, an academic with UK and New Zealand dual nationality, was appointed to the position by the UN Human Rights Council on March 27.
RSF’s letter warns Bennett that press freedom has dramatically worsened in Afghanistan, and that journalists are being arbitrarily arrested and placed under media restrictions.
The new regulations in Afghanistan include a law banning privately owned TV channels from retransmitting news programs provided by international broadcasters, including BBC, Voice of America and Deutsche Welle, in local languages such as Dari, Pashto and Uzbek.
When contacted by RSF, a ministry spokesman blamed the ban on “the problem of the attire worn by these media’s women presenters, after several warnings.”
Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August last year, Afghan journalists and media reporters have lived in increasing fear amid regular reports of arbitrary detentions, arrests and raids of journalists’ homes.
At least 50 media workers have been arrested by the Afghan police and intelligence services since, and more than 300 media organizations have shut down, with many employees fleeing the country.
Reporters Without Borders ranked Afghanistan 122nd out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.