Afghanistan: a generalist radio reduced to broadcasting religious programs

(AFP) – In the premises of the Urooj radio station in Farah (western Afghanistan), teams of journalists chained the news bulletins but, since the arrival of the Taliban, Ebrahim Parhar remains alone to broadcast for hours religious programs.

He started Urooj, which means “Ascension” in Pashtun, six years ago, choosing a variety of programs for audiences long deprived of media.

“We had musical, religious, political and musical programs,” he told AFP, adding that until two months ago the station was broadcasting 19 hours per day.

But when Islamist fighters took power in mid-August, everything changed.

“Unfortunately, of all the programs, there is only one left, the religious”, indicates this man aged 35 years, clean shaven, with short black hair and piercing blue eyes, serving tea on his desk.

“We prepare a list in the morning and broadcast it all day long because there is no more direct”

He had to fire all his 18 employees, including eight women. “All the contracts and the advertisements we had were canceled,” he adds. “If this persists, we will have to close.”

The arrival of the Taliban destroyed the dream of Marya Sultani, a former presenter of the newspaper, of becoming a “famous journalist” in Farah province.

– “Everything stopped” –

“I had managed to become a journalist, but now everything has stopped,” this young woman of 25, a black shawl on her head, told AFP. Having come to visit her former colleague, she takes a seat behind the microphone, in the soundproof studio where she worked.

After working for five years, she is now “unemployed and a recluse at home”, terrified that “someone will hurt me” for being a journalist.

The Taliban, whose regime at the end of the years 1990 was brutal and repressive, claimed they would respect women’s rights under Sharia law, but for nearly two months women have largely been prevented from working.

Press freedom and human rights groups say they have imposed new rules on journalists, including banning all reporting “contrary to Islam”, “insulting public figures” or relating to “public figures”. subjects which have not been confirmed by the authorities “.

According to the Committee for the Safety of Afghan Journalists (AJSC), more than 70% of the country’s media have closed.

Many journalists have fled the country or are living in hiding, leaving the country’s media landscape at its lowest level in twenty years, according to the AJSC.

Some of those who continued to work were arrested and beaten as they tried to cover up unauthorized protests.

“I am worried because some of my employees have been threatened,” says Parhar, who has already been “targeted twice”.

Before the final offensive which allowed them to become in a few days the masters of the country, the Taliban had organized a series of targeted assassinations against public figures, including journalists.

The authorities of the previous government had informed him on several occasions that he was “a potential target”. “I don’t feel safe,” he says.

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