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Taliban Assault Afghan Journalist in Latest Attack on Media Freedom 


FILE - A Taliban fighter walks past a beauty salon with images of women defaced using spray paint in Shar-e-Naw in Kabul.

The Taliban have assaulted a journalist in Kabul at “gunpoint” in breach of pledges the Islamist group would uphold freedom of expression in Afghanistan.

The incident comes amid accusations Afghan journalists and activists are increasingly being harassed by the Taliban since the group took control of the capital city more than a week ago.

“I was beaten by the Taliban in Kabul's New City [or Shahr-e-Naw area] while reporting,” Ziar Khan Yaad, who works for the TOLO news channel, the country’s largest, tweeted Thursday.

“Cameras, technical equipment and my personal mobile phone have also been hijacked,” he wrote.

The TOLO news network reported that Yaad and his cameraman were filming footage of jobless people and laborers when they were beaten by Taliban forces.

“I still don't know why they behaved like that and suddenly attacked me. The issue has been shared with Taliban leaders; however, the perpetrators have not yet been arrested, which is a serious threat to freedom of expression,” Yaad wrote.

A senior member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, while responding to Yaad’s complaint, said an investigation into the incident was underway.

“We have taken the incident seriously and we have shared it with the security agencies. Necessary steps will be taken following the investigation,” Wasiq said.

Meanwhile, Afghan journalists and activists reportedly staged a sit-in protest in Kabul Thursday, demanding that the world protect them.

The Taliban have searched properties belonging to at least five journalists in Kabul, according to media rights organizations.

Chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has repeatedly said in recent days that media were free to report, citing a blanket amnesty his group has offered to those who worked with the United States or other Western nations.

“Maybe there are incidents, small incidents. Maybe some of our fighters are near your offices,” Mujahid told a news conference on Tuesday when his attention was drawn to the harassment of journalists. “We will be removing our forces from near media offices, and you can work freely.”

Media rights organizations describe a ‘gargantuan’ effort to vet and find safe passage for hundreds of journalists at risk from the Taliban

The U.S.-based International Women’s Media Foundation said the Taliban’s pledge “doesn’t square” with what it is hearing from Afghan media.

"We have heard directly from journalists on the ground that the Taliban [have] been searching for them, and [have] come to their houses, and they are terrified,” IWMF deputy director Nadine Hoffman told VOA.

She added that many of the women “feel that everything they've worked for the last 20 years has disappeared overnight.”

International media freedom advocates have been pressing the United States and other Western nations to prioritize the safety of Afghan journalists and ensure their evacuation from the country along with others fearing Taliban retribution.

Former Afghan government officials are also complaining that despite offering the amnesty, they routinely are being harassed. Halim Fadai, who governed four provinces under the ousted Afghan government, tweeted Taliban fighters visited his home for an eighth time Thursday.

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