Afghanistan: How press freedom has crumbled since the Taliban takeover

While Taliban officials claim that women can continue to work, the reality is that in the field of journalism, this is not the case

Selma (name changed) was a journalist and activist living and working in Panjshir province in northeastern Afghanistan. She lost her job following the Taliban takeover of the war-ravaged country in August.

After being threatened, she left the region and is now in hiding, selling bolani, a local flat bread, on the streets to survive.

"I worked as a journalist and human rights activist," Selma, who asked not to reveal her true identity for fear of reprisals, told DW. "As you know, women's rights are strongly related to religious ideologies, so we were always in dispute with extremists. This put us in danger."

Selma is one of the thousands of journalists and media workers who have lost their jobs in Afghanistan since August.

According to a report published in December by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 40% of media outlets have closed over the past five months with an estimated 6,400 journalists losing their jobs. Hundreds have fled the country. The report added that over 80% of female journalists are now out of work.

Some provinces in Afghanistan have been left with only a handful of media outlets, and those that remain have ceased to broadcast music, pulled foreign content and taken female hosts off the air.

Most have also softened their news coverage out of fear of closure or worse and now broadcast strictly religious content.

Afghan citizens who enjoyed a variety of media choices over the past two decades now have little access to critical news and information.

"Without a free press capable of exposing bad governance's failings, no one will be able to claim that they are combating famine, poverty, corruption, drug trafficking and the other scourges that afflict Afghanistan and prevent a lasting peace," Reza Moini, the head of RSF's Iran-Afghanistan desk, stated in the report.