The Network of Women in Media, India stands in solidarity with journalists and all other beleaguered civilians in Afghanistan, especially women, as the situation rapidly deteriorates amidst the Taliban take-over of the country. We urge the Indian government to extend all possible support to vulnerable civilians and journalists, particularly women journalists, in Afghanistan.
Women journalists that the NWMI has been in contact with are bearing witness to the utter chaos, terror and uncertainty as the nightmare of a brutal Taliban reign becomes a reality, pushing back decades of hard-won progress for women and girls, upon whom the Taliban has meted out particularly horrific treatment merely on account of their gender.
The period 2020-21 has been one of the deadliest for journalists in Afghanistan. According to the IFJ South Asia Press Freedom Report, from May 2020 to April 2021, eight journalists (four of them women) were killed, 20 were wounded and some imprisoned. “At least 100 resigned from the industry and 50 were forced to flee beyond its borders. Such violence and a declining security situation represent a serious counter threat to the achievements of the last two decades in the field of freedom of expression and a free press in Afghanistan,” says the report. At least one female journalist has been killed since the report came out.
The voices of women journalists in Afghanistan tell of extreme precarity and risk:
• “Things are horrible and will get worse. If you don’t have money, you can do nothing to save your life.”
• “We are living in a very risky situation and day by day we lose hope. We are concerned about our safety but also the loss of our achievements. I am not afraid of killing and death but afraid of their (the Taliban) cruel behaviour. I am really afraid for the young women journalists live in the provinces. They are under pressure from this trauma and cannot escape.”
• “The situation is very bad and we are in danger. Our radio station is not working right now because the Taliban attacked and ruined my radio station… I really love my work and my country but I need to find safety for myself and my family, at least for a few months. I hope the international community will get us to better and safe living.”
• “Last week, I was a news journalist. Today, I can’t even write under my own name or say where I am from or where I am. My whole life has been obliterated in just a few days.”
• “I want to come to India by unfortunately the visa became closed. I need financial help. I really love my work and my country but my family and life is also important.”
• “Kabul is captured by the Taliban. We are really worried and concerned about the safety of all women journalists. I hope we have Internet connection and access. Pray for us. We fight and give sacrifice for nothing.”
• “The biggest help is to facilitate visas for journalists to safer countries to keep us alive and hear our voice against injustice and violations.”
The NWMI urges the Government of India to immediately facilitate visas for Afghan journalists, especially women journalists, and their families, especially elderly dependents and minor children. Such evacuation must be without any discrimination whatsoever, especially any based on religion or ethnicity.
We hope that the Government of India, as well as Indian civil society and journalists’ bodies will arrange for the evacuees’ accommodation and sustenance in India during this catastrophic crisis.
The Network of Women in Media, India
17 August 2021