The Taliban wants Afghan women in media to become invisible

Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan’s government in mid-August 2021, the situation for women journalists has changed completely.

Access to information about women journalists is still limited, arrests and intimidation of journalists by the de facto government officials and fighters continue and new restrictions have been imposed on women journalists and media workers by the Taliban, which include the following: men and women cannot work on the same television programme, men and women’s work studios must be separated, women must cover their faces while appearing on screen and the Taliban can interfere in who can appear as analysts on political programmes and restrict appearances by the Taliban’s critics.

The de facto authorities also announced that women are not allowed to select journalism for their university entrance exam. This means that no new women will receive a formal education in journalism.

This is part of an ongoing trend of women journalists having their rights rolled back. last year, the Taliban made face masks mandatory for women appearing on screen. Women journalists cannot report on the scene of events or go to the de facto authorities’ press conferences and events, especially events held by the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. The Taliban also refuse to give interviews to women journalists.

Naznin (name changed), a woman journalist, told IMS that she went to a conference held by the Taliban to make a report, but she was kicked out by the Taliban because she was the only woman in the conference.

She says that, according to the guidance of the Taliban, she was wearing a full hijab and had her face covered, but the Taliban asked for her to be expelled from the conference.

“When I asked the reason, they said that there is no other woman here except you, it is all men, and you are not allowed to be among them,” she said.

She says that after the fall of Kabul, when no girl dared to leave the house, she left the house to make the news.

“In the first days of the fall, women did not even go out of the house out of fear, but I went out with a camera. But the Taliban broke my camera and whipped me.”

She added that Taliban want to remove women from media and because of that she is fighting to work for their rights and future.

After the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, the situation for all women – especially women journalists – became worse.

Huge numbers of women journalists left Afghanistan and a large number have left media. IMS partner findings show that before the fall of the republic, a total of 1,300 women journalists and media workers were active in the media sector across the country. However, after the Taliban’s takeover, women’s presence in the media has seen a 67 percent reduction. During this time, 899 women journalists and media workers have lost their jobs. Direct threats, security issues, imposed restrictions in the workplace, immigration, media outlets’ inability to pay salaries and family issues were among major reasons that forced women journalists out of their jobs. According to Nai, supporting open media in Afghanistan, 50 percent of television stations, 48 percent of radio stations and a large number of print media have closed due to economic or political problems.

Currently, only 463 women journalists and media workers are active in Afghanistan.

Kabul province, with more than 284 journalists, currently has the largest number of active women journalists, followed by Herat with 45, Badakhshan with 30, Balkh with 25 and Nangarhar with 15.

During the republic era, only five provinces didn’t have active women journalists and media workers. Currently, the number of provinces with no active women journalists or media workers has risen to 16 provinces.

Zarmina (name changed) is a woman journalist who had left work in media due to Taliban restrictions and policies.

Zarmina worked for three months in Kabul for an exiled media outlet outside of Afghanistan. This outlet is especially for women, and they cover all news regarding women’s issues. She said after she was working for some time in media she became scared of the Taliban and her family asked her to leave her job.

“My family said to me that if the Taliban knows that you’re working against them then they will arrest you. So stop working with media, we don’t want to lose you.”

Despite the Taliban’s restrictions against women journalist, women are still working with media. But Zarmina said that the international community and media support organisations forget journalists inside of Afghanistan, and she asks that they don’t forget women journalists.

“We need your help and support more than before to do advocacy and help us financially.”