A deadly Taliban attack on a bus carrying employees of Tolo TV, Afghanistan’s biggest TV station drew widespread condemnation on Thursday, with activists denouncing it as an attack on freedom of speech and the country’s fragile media sector, AP reports:
A 2014 study by Altai Consulting found that 175 radio and 75 television stations had been set up since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban, who ran the country from 1996-2001. The Taliban regime had one radio station, Sharia Radio, and banned television.
The Tolo attack — the first direct assault on media professionals since 2001 — “not only targeted media but all social values, particularly human rights and civil society,” said Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar [right], the executive director for the independent Nai Supporting Open Media non-government organization.
In an interview with NPR in October, Saad Mohseni, the channel’s founder, addressed the threats made after Tolo TV reported on allegations that Taliban troops had raped women in Kunduz, The Atlantic reports:
Yes, I mean, there were a number of allegations of rape committed by Taliban troops. And we reported on these stories like any other media outlet. And of course, Amnesty and others came forward as well condemning what they saw as crimes of war. So I think that’s a thing that really upset the Taliban. And they have stated that as being the reason as to why this declaration was made. Well, you know, when you’re launching attacks from time to time and the objective is to actually kill and maim, they probably feel that sort of coverage is not negative. But this is the first time that the Taliban had to also win hearts and minds. So they probably felt that they needed to make an impression, and that impression wasn’t necessarily the one that they ended up making. This declaration came from the military council, so this is a pretty serious threat.
Following the attack, which drew wide condemnations, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement: “Attacks aimed at crushing independent media organizations in Afghanistan are a direct assault on the very foundation of Afghan democracy-a free and open press.”
In a move to improve the business climate and create more economic opportunity in Afghanistan, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and local business leaders from the Afghan province of Balkh released a Provincial Business Agenda (PBA) report that highlights recommendations for reforms to reduce corruption, improve security, reduce taxes, and improve infrastructure.
“Local business leaders have worked hard to come up with an agenda that will boost economic opportunity in the province,” Andrew Wilson, Acting Executive Director of CIPE [a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group], said today. “They are ready to work with the government to implement the reforms and create jobs and opportunity for the people of Balkh.”