18 March 2022

Taliban release TV staff arrested over report criticising ban on foreign shows

18 March 2022

The Taliban have released three employees of Afghanistan’s largest television station who were detained over a report that the country’s new rulers had banned all broadcasts of foreign drama series, a channel executive said on Friday.

Three staffers from TOLO TV were taken from the station on Thursday evening, according to Khpalwak Sapai, head of TOLO News department and one of the arrested.

Sapai later said that he and Nafay Khaleeq, the station’s legal adviser, were released within hours later on hursday.

Journalist Bahram Aman, a news presenter, was kept in custody overnight and released on Friday evening, the station said.

TOLO TV news director Khpolwak Sapai speaks during an interview with the Associated Press at his office, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. A December survey jointly carried out by Reporters Without Borders and the Afghan Independent Journalist Association, reported “a total of 231 media outlets have had to close and more than 6,400 journalists have lost their jobs”, since the Taliban’s August arrival in the Afghan capital. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Moby Group, the media company that owns TOLO TV, said the detentions were the result of the station reporting “about the banning of the foreign drama series” — a decision made by the Taliban-appointed Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

The Taliban gave no explanation for their ban, the latest restriction imposed since their takeover of the country in mid-August.

TOLO TV is an Afghan-owned media company with interests in South and Central Asia as well as the Middle East and Africa.

The United Nations and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) criticised the arrests and demanded the Taliban stop harassing Afghan journalists and stifling free expression through threats, arrests and intimidation.

“The Taliban must immediately stop detaining and intimidating members of the Afghanistan press corps,” a statement from CPJ said.

The UN mission in Afghanistan expressed “its deep concern about the detentions of journalists and the ever increasing restrictions being placed on media in Afghanistan.”

The mission, known as Unama, said on Twitter: “Time for the Taliban to stop gagging & banning. Time for a constructive dialogue with the Afghan media community.”

The Taliban did not respond to requests for comment from the Associated Press.

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