The press freedom situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated rapidly from difficult to impossible under Taliban rule. New media regulations were introduced on September 19, placing restrictions on independent media and freedom of expression. The regulations stipulate, for instance, that stories “contrary to islam” cannot be published. The International Federation of Journalists condemned the coercive restrictions, underlining the fact that they further dismantle the foundation of sustainable independent journalism in the country. Over 1,200 journalists have lost their jobs, and this figure is unlikely to go down as the Taliban continue to take over crucial democratic institutions in the country.
At the same time, hundreds of journalists have fled or remain in hiding. Especially journalists who have previously defended journalists’ rights, worked for foreign media outlets or advocated for media freedom risk being arrested, tortured, or even killed. Female journalists are especially vulnerable under misogynistic Taliban rule. There are reports of female journalists not being allowed to work and facing intimidation, threats, and torture.
Our countries top the lists of press freedom worldwide. However, thus far only a handful of journalists have received international protection in the Nordic countries. We hereby urge our governments and the international community to make sure that journalists, media workers and media advocates persecuted for carrying out their work receive the protection they deserve within the framework of international law. This means assisting in evacuating journalists; easing visa restrictions; providing safe passage, and supporting the journalists who remain in the country. As underlined by the President of the European Federation of Journalists: we owe our assistance to Afghan journalists, many of whom have taken enormous risks to keep us all informed.
Press freedom is a fundamental human right and protecting it is the obligation of every country that is a signatory of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We call for urgent action to help our colleagues in Afghanistan.
Hanne Aho, President of the Union of Journalists of Finland
Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, President of the Steering Committee of the European Federation of Journalists
Tine Johansen, President of the Union of Danish Journalists
Dag Idar Tryggestad, President of the Norwegian Union of Journalists
Ulrika Hyllert, President of the Swedish Union of Journalists
Sigríður Dögg Auðunsdóttir, President of the Union of Icelandic Journalists