One of Afghanistan’s top news presenters is being detained by the Taliban for reporting that foreign dramas had been banned from local TV screens, his network confirmed Friday.
Rights groups have condemned a decline in media freedoms and increasing attacks on journalists since the Taliban swept back to power last year with the United Nations calling for an end to “intimidation and threats against journalists” after the latest arrest.
TOLOnews, the country’s leading independent television network, said presenter Bahram Aman was detained at the channel’s office on Thursday evening along with news director Khpolwak Sapai and legal adviser Nafi Khaleeq.
“The three were arrested for broadcasting news that the authorities had banned television channels from airing foreign drama serials,” TOLOnews said in a statement.
Sapai and Khaleeq were released later Thursday.
“Our whole family is concerned,” a relative of Aman told AFP, asking not to be named.
“Previously… they had threatened him.”
After seizing power, the Taliban banned TV stations from broadcasting dramas or soaps unless they had an Islamic theme, although it was loosely observed.
They appear now to be more strictly enforcing that directive, which TOLOnews reported on.
Reports of the trio’s arrest prompted a strong reaction from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
“The UN urges the release of all those taken away by gunmen and an end to the intimidation and threats against journalists and independent media,” it said on Twitter.
During the Taliban’s first stint in power from 1996-2001, there was little Afghan media to speak of and the Taliban banned television, movies and most other forms of entertainment as immoral.
Despite promising a softer version of their rule since taking power last year, they have cracked down on journalists, critics of the regime, and women activists demanding rights to work and education.