Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Tuesday condemned the Taliban’s torching of a women-run radio and TV station in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz shortly after overrunning it.
Taliban forces seized Kunduz on Monday in a surprise move that marked the first time the insurgent group captured a major city since being ousted from power in 2001.
In a statement, the French-based media advocacy group said Taliban forces occupied government buildings and the offices of local media organizations in Kunduz, including independent local broadcaster Roshani Radio and TV, torching and destroying much of the equipment.
In a brief interview from an undisclosed location on Tuesday, Sediqa Sherzai, the proprietor of the station, confirmed the Taliban attack on her station.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected as government propaganda that Taliban fighters have indulged in looting banks, shops, government and non-government offices.
Under the Taliban, Afghanistan had one state-run broadcaster, Radio Voice of Sharia. The media sector has since undergone rapid growth since the fall of the Taliban regime and is regarded as one of the success stories of the past 14 years.
According to RSF, about 100 journalists work in Kunduz province, which has a population of about 1 million and at least five radio stations, three TV stations and five newspapers. Many journalists have fled the city, and radio and TV stations have stopped operating since the Taliban’s takeover.
Heavy fighting raged near Kunduz City Airport Tuesday as government forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes, engaged in a counteroffensive to wrest control of the city.
Rahimullah Samandar, the head of a national journalists' association, told RSF that many journalists had fled to the airport to where government forces have retreated.
“All of the media have stopped working,” he said.
Zarghonah Hasan, who runs two radio stations in Kunduz, called the torching of Roshani Radio and TV “an attack on media and women.”
She said she had lost contact with her journalist colleagues and was worried about their fate.
RSF said it “is very worried about the situation of the media in Kunduz, which continues to be controlled by the Taliban, and about the fate of several journalists of whom there has been no news since yesterday morning.”