Taqi Daryabi and Nematullah Naqdi, two Afghan journalists from the Etilaat Roz newspaper, have been brutally beaten by the Taliban for covering women's demonstrations in Kabul. In addition, several other reporters from the same media were arrested, as reported by TOLOnews. For example, Wahid Ahmadi, one of the cameramen, was arrested and his camera confiscated.
However, Daryabi and Naghdi have had the worst experience. Both have been violently beaten with electric cables, rubber bands and whips for four hours, according to Zaki Daryabi, editor-in-chief of Etilaat Roz. "Under constant and brutal torture by the Taliban, the reporters lost consciousness four times," he added. Daryabi has called for justice for "this unacceptable torture" and tweeted photos of the bruised faces of both journalists under the caption "the faces of journalists in Kabul".
"They took me to another room and handcuffed my hands behind my back. I decided not to defend myself because I thought I would be beaten even more, so I lay on the floor in a position to protect the front of my body," Taqi Daryabi, one of the assaulted journalists, told the BBC.
The reporter describes how eight men beat him with sticks, truncheons, rubber bands, cables or "whatever they had in their hands". He was kicked several times in the face, causing a large scar.
"One of the Taliban put a foot on my head, smashed my face on the concrete. They kicked my head, I thought they were going to kill me," Naqdi, the other journalist who was attacked, told AFP. When the photographer asked the Taliban why they were beating him, they replied that he was "lucky not to have been beheaded".
After several hours of torture, he was released. "I could barely walk, but they told us to walk fast," Daryabi recalled.
Etilaat Roz's editor-in-chief tells Reuters that despite the collapse of the Afghan government, they decided to continue working "in the hope that there would not be a big problem for the media and journalists". However, because of the latest incidents, "that little hope for the future of media and journalists in the country is destroyed," Daryabi laments.
International organisations such as Human Rights Watch have condemned the Taliban's actions. "The Taliban authorities said they would allow the media to operate as long as they respected Islamic values, but they are increasingly preventing journalists from reporting on demonstrations," says Patricia Gossman, the NGO's Asia director. Etilaat Roz reporters were covering women's protests in Kabul when they were detained. Since the Taliban seized power, Afghan women have been demonstrating for their rights. Some of them, like the journalists, have been attacked.
"The Taliban must ensure that all journalists can do their work without abusive restrictions or fear of reprisals," Gossman added.
The Taliban have tried to appear "more moderate" since arriving in Kabul in August. However, as local journalists and activists warn, there is no difference between the Taliban of 20 years ago and now. "The Taliban are quickly demonstrating that previous promises to allow Afghanistan's independent media to continue to operate freely and safely are worthless," acknowledges Steve Butler, Asia coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
However, this is not the first time Afghan journalists have been attacked by the Taliban. Ziar Khan Yaad, a journalist with TOLOnews, reported on 26 August that the Taliban beat him in Kabul while he was working. All his technical equipment and his mobile phone were also seized. "The problem has been shared with the authorities, but the perpetrators have not yet been arrested, which is a serious threat to freedom of expression". Saad Mohseni, owner of the TOLO network, has warned about the difficulties of reporting with the Taliban in power. "All our best-known journalists have left," he told CNN.
Beheshta Arghand, the first journalist to interview a Taliban leader on television, also had to flee to Qatar. "I left the country, like millions of people, because I am afraid of the Taliban," Arghand said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged the international community to maintain dialogue with the Taliban in order to avoid "economic collapse" and the deaths of millions of people.
"We must have a dialogue with the Taliban in which we directly affirm our principles, a dialogue with a sense of solidarity with the Afghan people," Guterres told AFP.
The UN Secretary General said that these talks are essential "if we want Afghanistan not to be a centre of terrorism, if we want women and girls not to lose all the rights acquired during the previous period, if we want the different ethnic groups to feel represented"