The Taliban pledged to protect a “free media” and safeguard women’s rights in a press conference just hours after taking Kabul, Afghanistan, but the Taliban is now accused of holding and torturing two journalists from the Afghan newspaper Etilaatroz who covered a women’s rights protest in the capital city.
Taqi Daryabi and Nematullah Naqdi, Etilaatroz reporters, “were detained by the Taliban while covering a women’s protest in the west of Kabul on Wednesday morning,” Al Jazeera reported. Two of their colleagues were “pushed and slapped” and had their belongings confiscated when they showed up at a Taliban outpost to inquire about the two journalists.
“Naqdi and his colleague reporter Taqi Daryabi, both of whom work for Etilaat Roz (Information Daily), were assigned to cover a protest in front of a police station in Kabul by women demanding the right to work and education. This was one of the many protests that took place in the country before the Taliban banned protests without permission,” Hindustan Times added.
“They were interrupted as soon as they started taking photos. ‘They told me “You cannot film,”’ Naqdi said adding that they tried to grab his camera but he gave it to someone in the crowd. After hours of beating and detainment, they were released,” the outlet noted.
Naqdi told media Wednesday that a Taliban official told him, “You are lucky you weren’t beheaded.”
He also said that “one of the Taliban put his foot on his head and then crushed his face against the concrete.”
“I thought they were going to kill me,” he told a French newspaper.
Etilaat Roz posted photos of the reporters’ injuries on Twitter. The graphic pictures show one man with injuries to his shoulders and another with dozens of long welts circling his waist and legs as though he was whipped. The two men say they were flogged and lashed with cables, kicked, and beaten with guns.
Marcus Yam of the Los Angeles Times also posted a photo of the pair showing similar injuries.
Painful. Afghan journalists from @Etilaatroz, Nemat Naqdi & Taqi Daryabi, display wounds sustained from Taliban torture & beating while in custody after they were arrested for reporting on a women’s rally in #Kabul, #Afghanistan.#JournalismIsNotACrime https://t.co/jt631nRB69 pic.twitter.com/CcIuCy6GVw
— Marcus Yam 文火 (@yamphoto) September 8, 2021
The Taliban also announced that it was banning protests after a women’s rights demonstration in Kabul gained global attention.
Reuters reported in mid-August, shortly after the Taliban captured the Afghan capital city of Kabul, that the group was working toward a more “inclusive” government in order to gain official global recognition. Among the pledges of the new and improved Taliban: a free press.
“In its first press conference since capturing the capital Kabul, the Islamist militant movement said on Tuesday it would allow free media and jobs for women – banned when it was last in power from 1996 to 2001,” Reuters noted.
“Private media can continue to be free and independent; they can continue their activities … Impartiality of the media is very important. They can critique our work so that we can improve,” a Taliban spokesperson said at the conference.
That pledge met with almost immediate skepticism. A reporter for an Afghan state-run radio and television network told Reuters that the Taliban “took his camera and beat up his colleague while he was trying to film a story” on Kabul’s conquerors. “Several media watchdogs have also reported incidents of Afghan journalists being beaten, harassed or raided at their homes in recent days,” the outlet noted.
The beaten reporters and their colleagues said that they received a firm warning from the Taliban before being allowed to leave: “What these protesters were doing is illegal and by covering such things, you all broke the law. We will let you go this time, but next time you won’t be let out so easily.”