Taliban bans Voice of America

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The US-funded news organization was accused of “repeatedly contravening” Afghanistan’s press laws

Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities have banned radio broadcasting from the US government-funded Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). The ban was imposed due to “complaints” made about the programming content, VOA said.

“Afghanistan has press laws and any network found repeatedly contravening these laws will have their privilege of reporting from and broadcasting within Afghanistan taken away,” Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the Taliban foreign ministry spokesman, told VOA in a written statement.

According to the spokesman, both VOA and Azadi Radio – the local Afghan incarnation of RFE/RL – failed to adhere to these laws. Both were branded “repeat offenders” that “failed to show professionalism and were therefore shut down,” he said. The ban took effect on Thursday.

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The ruling Islamist government did not provide further detail on the specific complaints it received, VOA said.  

Defending itself against the ban, the outlet insisted it operates “with journalistic independence” and aims to provide “comprehensive, balanced coverage” of events.

The US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which oversees both VOA and RFE/RL, is a US federal agency funded by Congress.

The Taliban has cracked down on press freedom since it swept into power last August, swiftly taking control of the capital Kabul after the US-backed government collapsed and American troops left in a hasty and botched withdrawal.

According to the Reporters Without Borders press freedom organization, the number of media outlets in Afghanistan has plummeted by 40% since the Taliban seized control. The number of journalists has fallen by 60%, the NGO said.

Earlier this year, German state-sponsored broadcaster Deutsche Welle said some of its Afghan programming had been banned, while the BBC’s broadcasts in Pashto, Persian and Uzbek were also taken off air.

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