Taliban cautioned against attacking TV channels
KABUL (Pajhwok): Afghan media and media support organisations on Tuesday condemned recent threats from Taliban to privately-owned Tolo TV and 1TV channels, saying any attack on media houses would be counted as war crime.
At a gathering held in Kabul, representatives from local media organisations, journalists and media advocacy groups issued a joint statement regarding the threats.
Fahim Dashti, speaking on behalf of media outlets, read out the statement, saying: “Taliban, in a recent statement, have called Tolo TV and 1TV as their enemy and military targets and issued death threats to all staff and threatened to target the two institutions and their facilities.”
“Afghan media, media activists, unions and media supporting organisations consider the threats not limited to the two channels, but to all of Afghanistan’s media family and to the country’s press freedom – which is one of the key achievements of the past 14 years.”
“We believe the Afghan people expect the Afghan media would not be deterred by such threats and would continue their mission of informing people based on journalism ethics and standards,” Dashti continued.
The joint statement said media organisations were not a party to the Afghanistan conflict or linked to any warring faction, but they were civilian organisations.
“Whenever the Taliban or any other group has complaints, they can adopt peaceful means because any attack on media and journalists is considered war crime.”
Dashti said if such threats continued or any journalist or media organistaion was harmed by the Taliban or any other group, they would have no choice but to boycott the groups’ news coverage as first reaction.
Those who attended the gathering insisted that the Afghan media community was committed to democratic values and professional journalistic ethics, primarily ensuring impartiality and balance in their publications.
They also called on the Afghan government and other relevant national and international organisations to provide the needed support so that journalists could perform their professional obligation in a safe and secure environment.
Two days back in a statement, the Taliban accused Tolo TV and 1TV of being directly funded by the US Embassy in Kabul to promote western culture and challenge Islamic values and encourage divisions among people.
The group’s statement particularly referred to covering the Kunduz conflict by the two channels which reported Taliban insurgents attacked a female hostel and raped students.
The group had said, quoting Kunduz residents, that all educational institutes including the female hostel in Kunduz had been shut on account of holidays when the rebels stormed the city.
Kunduz University officials had also rejected the presence of girl students at the hostel during the fall of Kunduz city to Taliban.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expressed its serious concern at recent statements from the Taliban that identified specific Afghan media outlets and their staff as military targets.
“UNAMA urges all parties to the conflict to respect and protect the right to freedom of expression,” the mission said in a statement.
It said the Military Commission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the name Taliban used for Afghanistan during their regime) issued a statement on October 12 condemning the reporting of Tolo TV and 1TV, declaring that they consider these television channels to be targets and not legitimate media outlets.
Under international humanitarian law, UMAMA said Afghan journalists were not participants in the conflicts they covered and did not lose their status as civilians.
“International humanitarian law explicitly prohibits attacks against civilians and acts or threats of violence aimed at terrorizing the civilian population. Additionally, journalists are protected under international human rights law, which protects the right to freedom of expression.”
The UN mission said the work of journalists was critical in providing independent and accurate information about the ongoing conflict. “Journalists must be guaranteed the highest degree of protection by State and non-state actors.”
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