Afghan media strive to show the way for Taliban turmoil

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Taliban update

After the Taliban occupied Kabul last month, dozens of TV and radio stations suspended their programs, causing dozens of Afghan journalists to lose their jobs. Madina Morwat was one of them.

But the 23-year-old journalist quickly resumed her career after working at Tolo News after the 2001 invasion by the United States. “Many embassies ask me if I want to leave Afghanistan, but I am committed to working for women and my country,” she said.

Since the hardline Islamic organization swept the Afghan capital in August, Tolo News has been broadcasting the full schedule. The country’s first 24/7 channel is known for its tough reporting.Announcing the dismissal of the president Ashraf Ghani escaped As the Taliban swept the country and reported corruption in the military. It also employs dozens of female reporters. Its fate under the Taliban is widely regarded as the touchstone of whether the new regime will guarantee fundamental freedoms.

During the Taliban’s tenure from 1996 to 2001, women were expelled from public life, the media was strictly controlled, and television and other forms of entertainment were banned.

International recognition is needed to obtain aid, and the Taliban are interested in showing them a more free face. Western powers. In turn, foreign governments hope that the regime will become a regime with which they can cooperate to avoid an economic crisis that may trigger the proliferation of a large number of refugees and jihadists in the region..

But so far, the outlook seems precarious. Despite the early promises by senior Taliban officials that Afghans are fearless and hardline Islamists have no intention of resuming past repression, Kabul has already seen the suppression of dissidents. Armed fighters actively paid protesters, beating and detaining journalists covering anti-government protests in the capital last week, including a Tolo News photographer.

“They might kick us out eventually… I doubt it,” said Saad Mohseni, chairman and CEO of Moby Group, who launched Tolo News in 2004.

But Mohseni said this is the time to talk to the Taliban and convince them of the advantages of moderate Afghanistan before their views become tough. “It might be the right thing to involve them now,” he said.

Saad Mohseni, head of the Moby Group, said that if security or independent reporting is compromised, Tolo News will have to relocate outside of Kabul © Massoud Hossaini/AP

Mohseni is a 55-year-old Afghan Australian and the son of an Afghan diplomat. He was born in London and left the financial career of Australian stockbroker Tricom, returned to Afghanistan and started his media business. Moby Group was established in 2003 with funding from the United States Agency for International Development. Rupert Murdoch, a media mogul whom Mohseni called a friend, held a minority stake in the company in 2012.

After the US-led invasion, Toro’s rise heralded the modernization of the Afghan media landscape. Before the Taliban regained control, the country had dozens of TV channels and 150 radio stations.

As the country’s leading broadcaster, producing programs in Pashto and Dari, the two main languages ​​of the country, Tolo and other Moby TV and radio channels account for 60% of the Afghan audience. The reality show “Star of Afghanistan” and Toro’s evening news shows regularly attract about 12 million viewers, which is one-third of the country’s population. Its channels can also be used in a wider range of countries.

Two days after the Islamists seized power, Tolo asked Taliban official Mawlawi Abdulhaq Hemand to accept an interview with female news anchor Beheshta Arghand and immediately tested the new regime. Their exchanges spread all over the world.

Arghand then interviewed the human rights activist Malala Yousafzai, who was a loud critic of the Islamic faction’s repression of women who were shot and killed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards when they were schoolgirls. Pakistani Taliban -Declared allegiance to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But more than 50 of the 400 Arghand and Tolo employees have since fled the country, worrying about the safety of them and their families.

A Tolo reporter who left the country at the end of August said that “we spend most of our time in the office” out of fear that the Taliban will attack their homes. After the takeover, “the Taliban did not do what they said. We must save Our lives and our families.”

Afghan news anchor Beheshta Arghand
Tolo news anchor Beheshta Arghand and his colleagues fled Afghanistan due to safety concerns © Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

Mohseni from Dubai said that he will not return to Afghanistan until his safety is guaranteed. He said that the Taliban had promised that Tolo could continue its show production, but out of cautious considerations, he has removed some Turkish soap operas and music videos.

Observers say that the early days of the new regime gave false hopes for the future of free media.

Avinash Paliwal of the Soath Institute for South Asian Studies, University of London, said: “The top Taliban leaders see Tolo as a potential tool that they can use to manage their image according to their preferences in the coming months.” “In view of Tolo. Luo’s powerful international voice, and the Taliban are granting privileges to help soften their image. These privileges may change.”

Although it is not clear how long Toro will live, Mohseni has used social media to condemn the whipping of journalists and pay tribute to a journalist working for the Afghan National Resistance Front who was killed in the battle with the Taliban in Panjhi. El Valley, the last opposition in the country insisted.

He said Tolo will continue to operate outside Kabul for as long as possible, adding: “There are many others who want to stay and work. We have hired many new employees,” including many women.

However, if security or independent coverage is compromised, operations will be relocated. “We have no safety net, no state, no government, and no official police,” he said. “This is actually very nerve-wracking for us.”

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