Taliban silences Radio Free Europe in Afghanistan

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By Euronews  with AFP
A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of an explosion in front of a school in Kabul, Afghanistan, on April 19, 2022.
A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of an explosion in front of a school in Kabul, Afghanistan, on April 19, 2022.   -   Copyright  Ebrahim Noroozi/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.

The Taliban announced on Thursday it had banned the Afghan service of Radio Free Europe. 

Known as Azadi, meaning freedom, the station broadcasts education programmes for girls in Afghanistan, who have been stopped from attending school since the Taliban took over last year.

A Taliban Information Ministry official, Abdul Haq Hammad, tweeted that the US-funded radio station had been taken off air for not complying with "journalistic principles and its one-sided coverage". 

The move comes amid a broader crackdown on the freedoms of Afghan women and girls. 

Though the Taliban said it would protect their rights following its seizure of power in August, it has rolled back freedoms, preventing women from long-distance travel without a male guardian and banning girls from receiving an education. 

Videos have circulated online which purport to show the Taliban lashing women for minor infringements of the new rules. 

Radio Free Europe, which is also known as Radio Liberty, is funded by the US government but is editorially independent. In Afghanistan, it broadcasts in the two main spoken languages, Dari and Pashtun. 

The station adhered to the ban but stressed that it would look for alternative ways of providing its service in Afghanistan. 

"Azadi is a lifeline for tens of millions of Afghans, which makes the Taliban's decision all the more tragic," Radio Free Europe chairman Jamie Fly said in a statement.

Azadi had already closed his office in Afghanistan after the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, following the chaotic withdrawal of US forces from the country.

The Taliban have imposed an ultra-rigorous interpretation of Islam on the Afghan population, gradually introducing increasingly strict rules. 

Radio Free Europe was set up after World War Two to support refugees from the USSR and give them a platform to voice their opinions to a wider audience. 

Scholars have argued that the US funded the project to counter communism, amid Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union.