Taliban ‘rules of journalism’ pave way for censorship and persecution, RSF warns
Asia-Pacific Report Press Office
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says it is very disturbed by the “11 rules of journalism” announced by the Taliban during a meeting with the media on September 19.
The rules Afghan journalists will now have to apply are vaguely worded, dangerous and likely to be used to persecute them, the Paris-based Global Media Freedom Observatory said.
Working as a journalist now means strictly abiding by the 11 rules unveiled by Qari Mohammad Yousuf Ahmadi, the acting director of the Government Information and Press Center (GMIC).
At first glance, some of them may seem reasonable, as they include an obligation to respect “the truth” and not to “distort the content of the information,” said RSF.
But in reality they were “extremely dangerous” because they opened the way for censorship and persecution.
“Decreed without consultation with the journalists, these new rules are cold in the back because of the coercive use which can be made of them, and they are bad omen for the future of independence and journalistic pluralism in Afghanistan” , said RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire. .
“They establish a regulatory framework based on principles and methods that contradict the practice of journalism and leave room for oppressive interpretation, instead of providing a protective framework allowing journalists – including women – to return to work under conditions acceptable.
“Tyranny and persecution”
“These rules pave the way for tyranny and persecution. “
The first three rules, which prohibit journalists from broadcasting or publishing articles that are “contrary to Islam”, “insult national figures” or violate “privacy”, are loosely based on the Afghan national law on human rights. media, which also incorporated an obligation to comply with international standards, including article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The absence of this requirement in the new rules opens the door to censorship and repression, as there is nothing to indicate who determines, or on what basis it is determined, that a comment or report is contrary to Islam. or disrespectful to a national. figure.
Three of the rules require journalists to abide by what are meant to be ethical principles:
- They must “not try to distort the content of the news”;
- They must “respect journalistic principles”; and
- They “must ensure that their reporting is balanced”.
But the absence of reference to recognized international standards means that these rules can also be misused or interpreted in an arbitrary manner.
Rules 7 and 8 facilitate a return to control of information or even prior censorship, which has not existed in Afghanistan for 20 years.
‘Treated with care’
They state that “matters which have not been confirmed by the authorities at the time of broadcast or publication should be treated with care” and that “matters which could have a negative impact on the attitude of the public or affect morale should be treated with care when broadcast or published ”.
The danger of a return to control of information or prior censorship is reinforced by the last two rules (10 and 11), which reveal that the GMIC “designed a specific form to allow the media and journalists to prepare more easily their reporting in accordance with the regulations ”, and that henceforth, the media must“ prepare detailed reports in coordination with the GMIC ”.
The nature of these “detailed reports” has not yet been revealed.
The ninth rule, requiring media to “adhere to the principle of neutrality in what they broadcast” and “publish only the truth”, could be open to a wide range of interpretations and further expose journalists to arbitrary retaliation.
Afghanistan was ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index published by RSF in April.