Two Afghan journalists were beaten up in custody by the Taliban for covering a protest by women this week, their editor has said. Viral photos of the two journalists show red and purple welts and bruises on their bodies – telltale signs of flogging, a common practice among the Taliban. The photos circulated like wildfire on social media, prompting anger among journalists around the world. After the incident, one senior Afghan reporter declared that “press freedom has ended” in Afghanistan.
The two journalists were reporting Tuesday’s protest by women against the Taliban government and Pakistan for Etilaatroz newspaper. They were reportedly arrested by the Taliban, who cracked down on the protest and journalists covering it. According to Zaki Daryabi, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper said that the two male journalists were violently beaten up in custody and then released. He posted their photos where they can be seen with weals and bruises on their body and cuts on their face.
The two journalists – Taqi Daryabi and Nematullah Naqdi – told the media that they were taken to the police station where they were kicked and beaten with batons, cables and whips. “They took me to another room and handcuffed my hands behind me. I decided not to defend myself because I thought they would just beat me even worse, so I lay down on the floor in a position to protect the front of my body”, Daryabi said.
Naqdi said that he was taking pictures of the protest when the Taliban forces tried the yank the camera off his hand. “One of the Taliban put his foot on my head, crushed my face against the concrete. They kicked me in the head… I thought they were going to kill me”, he said.
The injured journalists were taken to the hospital where they were told to take a two-week rest. The Taliban have promised that this incident will be investigated.
Afghanistan’s Tolo News reported that its photojournalists Wahid Ahmadi had been detained and held in custody for three hours for covering the protests. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international non-governmental organization, has claimed that at least 14 journalists had been detained and released in the past two days for covering Tuesday’s protests.” We urge the Taliban to live up to those earlier promises, to stop beating and detaining reporters doing their job, and allow the media to work freely without fear of reprisal”, CPJ said.
Human Rights Watch also echoed CPJ’s concerns: Patricia Gossman, the associate director at the Watch, said: “Taliban authorities claimed that they would allow the media to function so long as they ‘respected Islamic values,’ but they are increasingly preventing journalists from reporting on demonstrations. The Taliban need to ensure that all journalists are able to carry out their work without abusive restrictions or fear of retribution.”