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Taliban Bans VOA, RFE/RL Radio in Afghanistan

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FILE - Voice of America Afghan service journalists Noshaba Ashna, Hafiz Assefi and Roya Zamani on the air at VOA headquarters in Washington.

Taliban authorities have announced a ban on FM radio broadcasts from Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) stations in Afghanistan, citing complaints they have received about programming content.

The ban will be enforced on December 1, according to a directive issued by the Taliban’s ministry of information and culture.

Taliban spokespeople have not provided further details about the alleged complaints they say they have received about the U.S.-funded news programs.

It is also unclear whether the ban will apply to other international broadcasters that have used the same system for FM broadcasts in Afghanistan.

Since seizing power last year, the Taliban have imposed a series of restrictions on media and journalists in Afghanistan, including requiring women presenters to wear masks.

Free press groups have accused the Taliban of imposing widespread censorship on media, harassing journalists and denying work rights for female media personnel.

VOA and RFE/RL are U.S. government-funded news organizations that operate with journalistic independence and aim to provide comprehensive, balanced coverage.

VOA’s Afghan services broadcast 12 hours a day on 15 FM channels and two medium wave (MW) channels, with programming split between Pashto and Dari.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much of the audience in Afghanistan will be affected by the FM ban. Dari and Pashto radio programs, first started in the 1980s, reach millions of listeners across Afghanistan and are widely respected as credible and reliable.

VOA also reaches a large Afghan audience via digital media. In March, the Taliban stopped VOA’s Ashna TV news shows, which had been broadcast on Afghan National Television, Tolo, Tolo News and Lamar for a decade, VOA Pashto reported.

Since the Taliban reclaimed power in August 2021, dozens of private television channels, radio stations and print media have reportedly ceased operation because of economic hardships and Taliban restrictions.

Hundreds of Afghan media personnel also have fled the country, fearing Taliban persecution.

According to the press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 219 video, audio and print shops have been closed in Afghanistan since reestablishment of the Taliban. Before then, 547 media outlets operated in the country, RSF said.

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