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Many of Afghanistan's journalists have fled. Those who remain face a harsh new world

Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Defying the Taliban can have a heavy price. On Sept. 8, Daryabi’s brother, Taqi, and Etilaatroz video journalist Nemat Naqdi went to cover a women’s rights protest in Kabul. Taliban enforcers quickly surrounded them, manhandling Taqi into a local police station and shoving him to the ground. They grabbed anything on hand — the butts of their machine guns, pipes, cables — and pounded him till he lost consciousness.

Naqdi soon received the same treatment. His left eye is still speckled with blood, and he has lost hearing in his left ear.

Almost a month after the savage beating, both Taqi and Naqdi were on the same Oct. 3 evacuation flight to Doha, the Qatari capital, with Daryabi. An hour after they boarded the plane, Taliban fighters barged into the Etilaatroz office, demanding to know where Daryabi was and warning staff members not to mention that the Taliban had come calling.

At another women’s rally in Kabul last week, Taliban enforcers again attacked journalists and threatened to beat demonstrators for participating.

The situation is now especially difficult for women working in the media, given the Taliban’s suppression of women’s rights. The day Kabul fell to the Taliban, Fatima Roshanian, the 27-year-old editor and publisher of Nimrokh, a feminist magazine, started frantically burning whatever issues she had lying around the office before any fighters could barge in. She’s now in hiding in the capital. The magazine is all but shut down.

“During the first week of Taliban rule in Kabul, I would wake up, wash my face, put on my clothes and start to leave home for the office. But then I would remember the Taliban are in Kabul, that it is all finished,” she said.

 

“One thing is clear: People like me have no place in this country for now.”

Some have decided to continue. As one of the largest media outlets in the country, Tolo, a private Afghan broadcaster with a staff of some 400 people, still operates its news division, said Khpolwak Sapai, deputy head of the unit. Although dozens of employees left during the U.S.-led airlift in August, the company managed to bring in replacements and turn other positions into remote work from abroad.

Sapai said female staff members were still showing up to work at the station and appearing onscreen in news broadcasts.

“The new regulations, they’re very general and it’s difficult to understand what they mean. But somehow we are still producing news and analysis, at least 20 stories every day,” Sapai said. He acknowledged difficulties in covering events not sanctioned by the Taliban, such as the women’s protests last month.

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