Journalism in Afghanistan is in danger of disappearing, according to the head of the International Federation of Journalists, who said journalists trying to continue working under the Taliban have been beaten and jailed.
“The Taliban don’t want to make too many waves right now, but they will want to control everything, including the foreign press in Afghanistan,” Anthony Bellanger, IFJ General Secretary, told the Guardian. “And as often happens in such situations, foreign journalists will be viewed as agents of foreign governments.
“I believe what we will see emerge is official media – Taliban media – and no women. All other journalists will simply disappear. It wasn’t easy before – and even before the Taliban took power, journalists were killed – but it’s very dark now.
Bellanger believes that there is currently a period of “grace” before the Taliban crack down on international and Afghan journalists.
“It’s a matter of weeks before that changes. I’m pessimistic – I’ll be glad to be wrong, but the Taliban are still the Taliban. They announced inclusive government and what did we get – no women. It’s a disaster.”
IFJ representatives are in close contact with their colleagues in Afghanistan and believe that there are around 1,300 journalists left in the country, including around 220 women, most of them in Kabul. The IFJ is affiliated with the National Union of Afghan Journalists and the Association of Independent Afghan Journalists.
“It is now completely impossible for women journalists to work. The others are doing a very difficult job and doing what they can. We have photographs of journalists who have been imprisoned and beaten, so the situation for them is very difficult and dangerous, ”he said.
The United Nations human rights body, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned last week of a “growing recourse by the Taliban to force against those involved or which report “demonstrations.
The IFJ, which represents 600,000 journalists worldwide, said it was still trying to evacuate journalists from Kabul.
But Bellanger said: “It’s not about getting all the journalists out. We can’t do this and we wouldn’t want to because if no one reports what’s going on, it’s happening in the dark. There will be journalists who want to stay and do their job, but the future is bleak for them.
Bellanger said the IFJ had already raised € 40,000 (£ 35,000) in donations from affiliated media unions, many of them in the UK, to help their Afghan colleagues.
“We brought this up in just three weeks, so I want to thank people for their generosity. There has been a unique wave of solidarity about this. We are continuing the international donation campaign.
“The most pressing issue is how to help our colleagues there. Some have lost their homes, others their jobs. Some were injured and most of the doctors left. Most of the senior and professional echelons of society have left the country.
“On Monday we will start sending money to journalists in Kabul who need it. Every euro will be counted and we will check that it goes well to journalists and their families.
“Now we are calling on governments to offer a new humanitarian visa to journalists whose lives are in danger and who must leave.”
He said Afghan journalists had already been evacuated to Qatar, North Macedonia, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia and Belgium, but that some countries, including the Greece and the Netherlands, had not issued an emergency visa.
“My worry is that in a few days, a few weeks, the news agenda will have shifted and the media will forget about Afghanistan,” Bellanger said. “For the journalists who remain, I fear they will find out that they can choose not to do journalism – or to do journalism for the Taliban.”
He added: “It is stupid and naive to think that we can talk to the Taliban about this. There are journalists who want to stay because their life is in Afghanistan.
“We will try to get those who are in great danger and those who have already received death threats out, but we want to leave as much as possible on the ground in order to have information. It’s those kinds of times when people realize how much we need journalists.