Afghan journalist in B.C. fears for safety of his colleagues in Afghanistan

Click to play video: 'Vancouver man fears for former colleagues in Afghanistan' Vancouver man fears for former colleagues in Afghanistan
A Vancouver man who managed to get out of Afghanistan now fears for his former co-workers still in the country, now that the Taliban has taken over. Emad Agahi reports. – Sep 30, 2021

An Afghan journalist living in British Columbia says he fears for the safety of his former colleagues, who are living under Taliban rule in his home country.

Sanjar Sohail escaped to Canada before the takeover in August, but said the popularity of his publication is likely to make his fellow reporters in Kabul a target.

“There is no law, there is no rule of law, there is no constitution, and we don’t know what will happen to the media or journalists in Afghanistan,” he told Global News on Thursday.

Read more: ‘We need your solidarity’: What the Taliban takeover means for Afghanistan’s women and girls

Sohail is the founder of Hasht e Subh, one of the largest daily newspapers in Afghanistan.

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He described it as the “only secular” newspaper in the country — a publication “well-known” for its critical coverage of the government, human rights violations, land-grabbing and the mafia.

His colleagues are already feeling the impacts of Taliban rule, he said, with a handful of his female colleagues already forced out of their jobs.

“I have like six, seven female journalists that they are now at home, unable to do any reporting because they are not allowed to work,” he said.

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The Taliban has already issued a warning to Hasht e Subh and other news outlets, he said, against publishing any political reporting without consulting them first, or any content that’s critical of Islam.

One of his colleagues has already been arrested and was jailed for 24 hours, he told Global News — “threatened, intimidated” and “still not recovered.”

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“Unfortunately there are other cases of journalists being beaten by the Taliban, arrested, journalists being put in the jail.”

Read more: Afghanistan in for ‘major humanitarian crisis,’ Red Cross warns

Since the takeover in mid-August, the Taliban have expanded their interim cabinet, naming more ministers and deputies — all of them men.

In their previous rule of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, the Taliban, who adhere to a harsh interpretation of Islam, barred girls and women from schools, work and public life.

Journalists in the country are already “morally, psychologically destroyed,” Sohail added.

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“It’s very scary to face a Taliban fighter, it’s very scary to talk to a Taliban fighter, so for us, the situation is very uncertain,” he explained.

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Nevertheless, he said he’s encouraging those of his colleagues who can continue reporting to do so, despite the widespread inaccessibility of Taliban spokespeople to Afghan journalists.

“It’s a critical time in our history and we are responsible to provide accurate information and reporting for the public, and future studies and research.”

— with files from The Associated Press

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