KABUL -- A radio and television advertisement that "denounces the Taliban" and encourages civilians to report suspicious activity to security agencies in Kabul is proving to be a major threat to the militants.
The Taliban on Monday (June 24) warned the Afghan media to stop airing within a week an announcement that "denounces the Taliban and instigates the people against them".
"If all local and national FM radio stations, TV channels and other media outlets do not cease such activities within a week, then the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate will not consider these outlets as media channels but as enemy intelligence nerve centres," the Taliban said in a statement.
"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," it said.
The Afghan Presidential Palace (ARG) Tuesday (June 25) pledged to protect reporters from the Taliban's latest threats.
"The government has put in place every effort through the government and Media Joint Committee and based on the journalist protection regulation to provide security to reporters, offices of media organisations and their media activities, and it will continue to remain committed to it," the ARG said.
"Threatening and attacking the freedom of expression and freedom of press in any shape or form are unethical and against Islamic values," it added.
Attack on freedom of expression, press
The Taliban's attacks on media organisations and attempts to curb their freedom of expression have no legal justification, media rights advocates say. Afghan media outlets operate independently and impartially based on the country's laws.
"The Taliban's statement that threatened the media organisations and their workers has concerned us for freedom of expression and freedom of the press," said Mujeeb Khelvatgar, director of NAI, a non-governmental organisation that supports free media in Afghanistan.
"The Taliban's threat and warning to the media are an attack on the media and freedom of expression, and this is absolutely unacceptable for the press protection agencies," he said. "The Taliban warning the media and treating them as military targets are considered a crime against humanity, which is against the enforced laws of the land, international humanitarian law, laws of war and our Islamic beliefs."
"The Taliban have no religious or legal justification for the position they are taking against the media," Khelvatgar said. "We asked them to reverse their statement and current stance against the media."
"Complaining about the media by using force is a terrorist act --not a legal and Islamic one," he said.
"Nearly 60 reporters have been killed by the Taliban either directly or as a result of the terrorist attacks they have perpetrated in the past five years," Khelvatgar said. "In Kabul alone, 105 reporters and media workers have been killed in the past 18 years, more than 70% of whom have been directly or indirectly targeted by terrorist groups."
Independent media will not be censored
"The recent Taliban statement is in clear breach of freedom of expression and freedom of the press," said Haris Jamalzada, a university lecturer and civil society activist in Kabul. "The Taliban want to put pressure on the media and reporters to censor their reports on the Taliban's terrorist and destructive activities."
"The media organisations operate according to the country's laws," he said. Content aired or published by the media "are legitimate and prepared based on society's interests and needs."
Reporters say they are resisting the pressure by the Taliban and will not allow the militants to limit the scope of their work.
"The media and reporters have always respected the country's laws and ethics of journalism when they prepare" to air or publish any content, "and they have even aired the Taliban's reports with impartiality," said Fazal Rabi Qais, a reporter with a private TV network in Kabul. "The Taliban's threats against the media and reporters are an attack on the freedom of expression and a breach of the law. They [represent] enmity toward the country's media."
"Today, the Taliban asked to stop airing the commercials; tomorrow they will ask that the news must not say anything against them," he said. "This group tries to put limitations on the media and reporters for different reasons, but we will never surrender to the pressures and threats of the Taliban and will not allow them to impose any restrictions on us."
Civilians' role in reducing terrorist activities
"The country's media are independent in disseminating information, and most of the time deliver the public's voice to the government, international community and the Taliban," said Hedayatullah Azimi, 23, a Kabul resident and social media activist. "The Taliban have no right to restrict the media or attack their workers."
"This isn't the first time that the Taliban have threatened the media and reporters with death," he said. "We ask the government to protect media and reporters."
"The public's co-operation with security forces is very helpful as it can help us neutralise terrorist attacks and arrest terrorists," said Gen. Mustafa Nooristani, chief of the 119 Police Directorate.
"We have been able to neutralise 399 bombs the Taliban planted in the past year and save the lives of thousands of our countrymen," he said. "We achieved all this as civilians shared their information with the 119 Police Call Centre."
"Civilians had a key role in reducing and thwarting terrorist attacks, and we have been able to capture suicide vests, weapons, ammunition and even Taliban vehicles loaded with explosives with the help of civilians and other security agencies," said Nooristani.