Before the Taliban took over, there were some 700 female journalists working in Kabul. Just a few weeks later, less than 100 remain at work.
These figures are the result of an investigation by Reporters Without Borders and its partner organization, the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists.
Kabul was previously home to 108 media outlets with some 4940 employees. These included 1080 women, 700 of which were journalists. Out of the 510 women who worked for the eight biggest media outlets, only 76 (including 39 journalists) are still currently working. This, RSF reported, means that “women journalists are in the process of disappearing from the capital.”
General-Secretary of RSF, Christophe Deloire said:
“Taliban respect for the fundamental right of women, including women journalists, to work and practice their profession is a key issue. Women journalists must be able to resume working without being harassed as soon as possible, because it’s their most basic right, because it’s essential for their livelihood, and also because their absence from the media landscape would have the effect of silencing all Afghan women. We urge the Taliban leadership to provide immediate guarantees for the freedom and safety of all women journalists.”
RSF reported that most women journalists have been stopped from working in the provinces and more rural areas. Almost all privately-owned media has closed in these regions.
Just 48 hours after the Taliban took control, women from privately-owned TV channels like Tolonews, Ariana News, Kabul News, Shamshad TV, and Khursid TV continued working and ventured out to cover events. But the harassment they received was intense, with many being verbally and physically assaulted. Nahid Bashardost, a reporter from Pajhwok was beaten by the Taliban outside of Kabul Airport. Others reported that the Taliban were waiting outside their offices and stopping them from leaving.
At the State Channels, all women have been replaced, and they dare not go to work as the stations are under Taliban control. With no source of income, these women and many others are at risk of extreme economic hardship.
Despite undertakings from Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid that women would be able to “return to work in a few days,” no measure to this effect has been announced, forcing hundreds of women journalists to stay at home, dreading an uncertain future.
On 24 August, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said: “A fundamental red line will be the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls, and respect for their rights to liberty, freedom of movement, education, self-expression and employment, guided by international human rights norms.”
The Coalition For Women in Journalism (CFWIJ) has called on the Albanian government and Prime Minister Edi Rama to consider offering amnesty to some 100 Afghan women at high risk of harm if they remain in Afghanistan.
Founding Director, award-winning international journalist, media activist, and professor of journalism Kiran Nazish made the request today, calling for them to consider the “urgent humanitarian need” faced by those remaining in the country.
The 100 women include journalists, activists, artists, academics, and former parliamentarians at risk of violence or death from the Taliban.
“We call upon the Albanian government to consider the urgent humanitarian need for at-risk Afghans. We request Prime Minister Edi Rama to consider offering amnesty to at least 100 Afghan women who have played a prominent role in a progressive Afghan society. These women are now seeking refuge from the escalating danger and violence plaguing their country, and Albania’s generosity and compassion for them will be deeply recognized,” Nazish told Exit.
After the CFWIJ approached other countries with similar requests, many stepped up and offered to help. An urgent request made to the Brazilian Foreign Ministry resulted in 100 emergency visas being granted.
Other countries that offered assistance and shelter to women put forward by the Coalition include Mexico and Ireland.
Nazish commended the leadership and compassion shown by the leaders of these countries during this critical time.