Exiled Afghan journalists: A community in transit

  • August 14, 2023
  • News

Two years ago, the Taliban took power in Afghanistan. This has led to a systematic dismantling of civil rights and a stricter censorship of the media. More than half of the 547 media outlets that were registered in 2021 have since ceased to exist. But exiled media from Afghanistan bring a glimmer of hope. From October on, the JX Fund will start supporting Afghan media and media professionals in exile.

There is something the Taliban may have not foreseen. Back in 2001, the fall of the Taliban had led to a vast expansion of freedom of expression and the emergence of a vibrant free press. This new generation of Afghans had become used to consuming relatively free media for almost two decades. With the Taliban coming to power, a free press no longer exists. Therefore, independent Afghan media in exile are currently indispensably important and in great demand.


In an interview with Reporters Without Borders, Zaki Daryabi, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Afghan exile media outlet KabulNow, says that their readership has increased significantly over the past two years. His former newspaper Etilaat Roz gained international attention with a documentary observing the week of the Taliban takeover directly from the newspaper’s newsroom in Kabul. Before that, Etilaat Roz was Kabul’s most circulated newspaper, exposing high-level corruption scandals in the Afghan government.


The ones most affected by the social backlash are Afghan girls and women. They are banned from the education system, from the public sphere and from the media. A survey published in December 2022 by Reporters Without Borders and the Afghan Independent Journalists Association found that more than 84 percent of the female journalists have become jobless since the Taliban takeover. On August 3, the Hamisha Bahar radio station was shut down over a mixed-gender journalism training.

Amid these dramatic developments, a media outlet is now celebrating its one-year anniversary: Zan Times – a women-led, investigative newsroom working both inside and outside of Afghanistan – has been founded in August 2022. In Dari, Zan means woman. Editor-in-chief Zahra Nadar, who runs the medium from Canada, says that they want to be the voice of the marginalized people in Afghanistan.


Another women-led Afghan medium is Rukshana. The news agency was established in November 2020 and is named after a young woman who was stoned to death after fleeing a forced marriage in 2015. In an article written for the online platform Mahabahu, founder and editor-in-chief Zahra Joya explains that female Afghan journalists are facing tremendous challenges. Nevertheless, her medium has been growing ever since. To be able to access information on the ground more securely, Rukshana has now employed their first male reporter.


Exiled Afghan journalists are a community in transit. Immediately after the Taliban took power in Kabul, hundreds of Afghan journalists have fled to neighboring Pakistan and Iran, where many of them are still waiting to get a Visa that allows them to relocate to Europe or North America. With only temporary residence permits, they struggle to find a flat or employment. Two years after the takeover, many of these problems remain unresolved. Afghan journalists and activists as well as NGOs are calling on the authorities to keep their promises and support Afghanistan’s independent voices.


In October 2023, the JX Fund will present its new program line for Afghan media professionals in exile. Its aim will be to further strengthen the exiled Afghan media landscape in order to enable the Afghan society to continuously access independent information.