Following the Taliban conquest of Kabul on August 15, executives at, Afghanistan’s biggest independent TV network, Tolo had a tough decision to make: stay on-air or go dark.
Tolo kept broadcasting, but like the rest of the country’s TV and radio stations, it now faces a tough and uncertain future under the Taliban, whose return has sent fear coursing through the media.
The group has a history of smothering journalism throughout its 20-year insurgency.
The Taliban takeover “put us in a very, very difficult situation … to continue our work or not”, said Lotfullah Najafizada, the director of Tolo News..
The Taliban leadership has asked Afghan media to operate as usual.
One Taliban official even sat down for an interview with a woman host on Tolo News, keen to convince people that the Taliban will be softer this time around.
But many Afghans, including in the media, are not convinced.
“We’re scared, I’ll be honest with you, we are nervous,” Saad Mohseni, CEO of Tolo‘s parent company Moby Group, told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) from Dubai.
The Taliban victory has plunged Afghanistan’s independent media into crisis.
And Moby Group’s flagship Tolo TV and Tolo News is known for having brought programming to Afghans that would have been unthinkable under the Taliban, from an “American Idol“-style singing competition to music videos, soap operas and even Afghanistan’s first presidential election debates.
Most dramatically, Tolo and other Afghan networks gave space and opportunities to women, who were shut out from public life, education and workplaces by the Taliban.
Now, there are fears of a rollback.