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The Azadi Briefing: Taliban Deals Another Blow To Afghan Media

In yet another instance of the Taliban’s clampdown on the media, its government has suspended the broadcasts of two private television stations run by rival Islamist groups. (illustrative photo)
In yet another instance of the Taliban’s clampdown on the media, its government has suspended the broadcasts of two private television stations run by rival Islamist groups. (illustrative photo)

Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Abubakar Siddique, senior correspondent at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

As part of its widening crackdown on the media, the Taliban’s hard-line government has shut down two television stations.

On April 16, the media complaints commission within the Taliban's Information Ministry ordered the immediate suspension of the broadcasts from the Noor and Barya channels.

Commission members said the stations were shut for "violating Afghan and Islamic values and journalistic principles.”

A Taliban court will now decide whether the suspension can be lifted or turned into a permanent ban.

Jamiat-e Islami owns Noor TV, while Hizb-e Islami runs Barya. Both are leading Islamist groups who have opposed the Taliban. These stations ran Islamic programs.

Since it emerged as a ragtag militia in the mid-1990s, the Taliban has opposed and fought against the two groups, which it held responsible for the vicious civil war following the demise of Afghanistan’s pro-Soviet socialist government in 1992.

Why It's Important: The ban is a clear manifestation of the Taliban’s intent to outlaw media that does not conform to its Islamist ideology and worldview.

With the suspension of the stations, the Taliban is indicating that there is no space even for media outlets that are ostensibly Islamic and which cannot be accused of immorality or debauchery.

"This is worrying,” Samia Walizadeh, the head of the Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC), an independent media watchdog, told RFE/RL'S Radio Azadi. “The reasons given by the [Taliban] commission for suspending the broadcasts of these two media outlets are unacceptable."

Saddiqullah Tohidi, a press freedom activist, agreed. He said that the Taliban closed the two stations without even bothering to first prove their accusations.

“In a country that lacks a constitution, how can you prove a violation of national interests and Islamic principles?” he asked. “Afghanistan has turned into one of the most censored nations.”

What's Next: The Taliban is forging ahead to create a media environment that only reflects its views and serves its interests.

The extremist Islamist group ultimately aims to replace all journalism with propaganda. It attempts to achieve this by closing or outlawing independent Afghan media and discouraging or banning international press outlets from covering Afghanistan.

Fading international interest in the country provides a more conducive atmosphere for the Taliban to achieve its ideological goals.

What To Keep An Eye On

Statistics issued by the Taliban-led government show a drop in Afghanistan's exports and an increase in imports.

On April 16, the Taliban’s National Statistics and Information Authority released figures showing a nearly 20 percent decline in exports in the first three months of this year -- to $134 million from $176 million during the same period last year.

The country’s imports, however, surged from $694 million during the first quarter of last year to $793 million this year.

A recent World Bank report on the Afghan economy recorded similar trends.

Experts attribute the decline to the Taliban’s tense relations with neighboring Pakistan, which is one of its leading trading partners. Islamabad also provides ports to the landlocked nation.

"Pakistan closed its border crossings while pomegranates and other fruit crops were ready for export," said Khan Jan Alakozai, a senior official of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Chamber of Commerce.

He said coal prices also plummeted in the same period, impacting Afghanistan's export earnings.

Why It's Important: Afghan macroeconomic trends might continue to deteriorate if the Taliban's relations with Pakistan do not improve.

Tehran's ongoing standoff with Israel threatens the alternative import route the Taliban wants to build through Iran.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have. You can always reach us at

Until next time,

Abubakar Siddique

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

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Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

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