International media monitors demanded Tuesday that Taliban rulers in Afghanistan urgently investigate the alleged disappearance of two journalists and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The whereabouts of Ali Akbar Khairkhwa and Jamaluddin Deldar were unknown since May 24, when they both went missing from the Afghan capital, Kabul, according to relatives and co-workers.

Khairkhwa, a photojournalist and reporter with local Subh-e-Kabul newspaper, had departed for the capital’s Kote Sangi area in the morning to report and attend his university classes. Since then, his mother and brother told local media they could not find any information about him. They said they had contacted Taliban authorities, suspecting their role in the journalist’s abduction, but they denied involvement.

Deldar headed the Voice of Gardiz Radio in the southeastern Afghan province of Paktia. His family and his senior colleagues directly accused the Taliban of arresting him but did not know the reason for his arrest.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urged the Taliban to immediately investigate the disappearance of the two journalists, stressing the need for increased efforts to ensure protection journalists and media workers in Afghanistan.

 

“Contrary to the Taliban’s public commitment to protect freedom of the press and freedom of expression, incidents of harassment, attack, detainment and abduction of journalists have risen significantly following the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021,” the watchdog lamented.

The Islamist group seized power nine months ago from the then-Western-backed Afghan government days before the U.S.-led international forces withdrew from the conflict-torn country.

An estimated 1,000 journalists have fled Afghanistan since August, with threats, harsh restrictions and economic collapse leading to mass closures of local media outlets, according to IFJ. The monitor in its latest report has documented 75 media rights violations, including 12 killings and 30 arrests, across the country from May 2021 to April 2022.

Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) in a statement decried the disappearance and other incidents of harassment, saying they were fueling concerns about the dangers and abuse journalists face in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

“It’s beyond time for the Taliban to take responsibility for the safety of reporters and to allow all members of the press — men and women — to report the news without interference, including abolishing the decree that women TV journalists cannot appear with uncovered faces,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler.

The Taliban’s Ministry of Vice and Virtue, charged with interpreting and enforcing the Taliban’s version of Islamic Sharia law, has recently bound female presenters to cover their faces while on air.

Afghan TV channels have already been barred from broadcasting dramas and soap operas featuring women.

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