VOA denounced the Taliban for taking its programs off the air. In a statement, Acting VOA Director Yolanda Lόpez said, “We ask the Taliban to reconsider this troubling and unfortunate decision. The content restrictions that the Taliban are attempting to impose are antithetical to freedom of expression that the people of Afghanistan deserve.”
VOA produces a half-hour news bulletin in Pashto and Dari, the two main languages spoken in Afghanistan, five days a week for its Afghan partners, TOLO news and Shamshad TV.
VOA remains committed to broadcasting the truth, said Lόpez, “Our commitment to providing factual information to the people of Afghanistan is one that the Voice of America will continue on television, radio, and the internet on www.pashtovoa.com and www.darivoa.com, as well as on social media.”
The head of languages at BBC World Service Tarik Kafala called on the Taliban to immediately restore its news bulletins. Such a ban he said, “is a worrying development at a time of uncertainty and turbulence for the people of Afghanistan.”
This is the latest in a series of moves the Taliban has taken to stifle freedom of expression in Afghanistan since seizing control of the country last August. According to a survey released by Reporters Without Borders in December, at least 40 percent of Afghan media outlets have disappeared, and more than 80 percent of women journalists lost their jobs since the Taliban takeover of the country.
Human Rights Watch researcher Fereshta Abbasi reported in February that “Taliban harassment and attacks on journalists outside major urban areas have largely gone unreported, causing media outlets in outlying provinces to self-censor or close altogether.”
“In many provinces, the Taliban have virtually eliminated reporting on a wide range of issues and have driven women journalists out of the profession,” she said.
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement, “The United States is committed to supporting the right of freedom of expression the world over, especially for journalists and human rights defenders, to operate freely without fear of violence against them.”
The U.S. is committed to supporting the right of freedom of expression and continues to stand with the Afghan people.