Taliban military commission threatens Afghan media

The Taliban’s “Commission for Military Affairs of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” gave media outlets a one week deadline to cease broadcasting anti-Taliban commercials or they “shall become military targets.” The Taliban has a long history of denouncing and attacking Afghan journalists and other elements of civil society. Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists to work.

The Taliban’s military commission made the threat in a statement released on June 24 in English on Voice of Jihad, the groups’s official propaganda outlet. The statement was not subtle; it is titled “Warning by Military Commission of Islamic Emirate to hostile media outlets.”

According to the Taliban, TV stations in and around Kabul are broadcasting “commercial advertisement that denounce the ongoing Jihad, Mujahideen and Taliban” and “encourage opposition.” These commercials are “financed by Kabul administration security departments” and are “intelligence tools against the ongoing Jihad, to brainwash common Afghans and carry out direct espionage activities for the enemy.”

If the broadcasts are not halted, the “Islamic Emirate will not consider these outlets as media channels but as enemy intelligence nerve centers. They shall become military targets for the Mujahideen in the capital, provinces, cities and rural areas and none of their offices, journalists, workers and personnel shall retain any immunity.”

The Taliban has been hostile to Afghanistan’s media outlets, and often accuses them of being influenced or outright tools of the Afghan government and the West. The Taliban reportedly killed three Afghan journalists in 2018 alone, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The media is not the only element of Afghan civil society that draws the ire of the Taliban. The Taliban routinely attacks non-government organizations. Just last month, the Taliban assaulted Counterpart International, an NGO that it accused of promoting “western culture” and the “mixing” of men and women.

The Taliban has even targeted aid groups such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Organization for Migration.

In 2003, a Taliban commander known as Abdul Hafiz was involved in the kidnapping and murder of Red Cross employee Ricardo Munguía. Hafiz was captured, detained at Guantanamo Bay, and inexplicably, released back to Afghan custody and promptly freed. Upon his release in 2010, Hafiz quickly rejoined the Taliban and took over a committee that deals with ransoms and engagement with nongovernmental organizations.

While the Taliban denied involvement in the May 29, 2013 suicide assault on an ICRC office, it is strongly suspected of executing the attack.

In May 26, 2013, the Taliban claimed credit for a suicide assault against the office of the International Organization for Migration in Kabul.

In April of this year, the Taliban banned the ICRC and the World Health Organization (WHO) from operating in the areas it controls, claiming IRCR and WHO employees were “acting suspiciously during vaccination campaigns.”

The Taliban’s view of media

The Taliban does not believe in independent media, and not surprisingly, has a very different view of what news outlets should focus on. In the Feb. 2018 article titled Media! and our Religious and Moral Responsibilities, which was published on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban says the media should focus on “Islamic and moral values.”

These “Islamic and moral values” are defined as “humility, shyness, patience, sacrifice, respect for elders, virtuous behavior towards children, good character, valuing time, human respect, attending the patient, moderation, loyalty, brotherhood, civil union, sympathetic attitude toward each other, aiding the poor, preventing oppression and cruelty, assisting and helping the oppressed and the like.”

“The media has to fulfill its responsibility of educating its followers in a positive way, and not to promote and publicize evil deeds in the society,” the Taliban wrote.

The Taliban derided the broadcasting of “the vulgar, indecency and Indian movies” and the “imposition of an alien and secular culture over our people.”

The Taliban concluded: “Media lies to the people, frightens them with fascinating titles and propaganda, and promotes prostitution, indecency and profanity. Instead of stabilization, it endorses negative roles and adopts unlawful ways to impose western culture over the Afghan people.”