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Taliban blocks two U.S.-funded radio stations in Afghanistan



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KABUL — Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Thursday blocked transmissions by two news radio stations funded by the U.S. government, saying they had repeatedly “failed to adhere” to government press laws, “violated journalistic principles” and aired “one-sided broadcasts.”

The Ministry of Information and Culture announced that it had stopped FM broadcasts by the Voice of America in 13 of the country’s 34 provinces, and suspended nationwide broadcasts by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is known here as Radio Azadi.

Both 24-hour news stations operated for many years within Afghanistan, even after the Taliban forces took power in August 2021, and established a strict religious regime it calls the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

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The crackdown drew immediate protests from officials at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees both channels. Amanda Bennett, the agency’s chief executive officer, said the ban “will be seen for what it truly is, an effort to restrict Afghan citizens’ access to uncensored information.”

She said the agency “will not let this action deter us,” and is “already exploring alternative transmissions.” The FM broadcasts can also be accessed from nearby countries and via digital means at home.

Afghan officials did not provide specific examples of objectionable content in the broadcasts, but the shutdowns came as the de facto government has expressed growing displeasure with what it calls unfair and inaccurate depictions of its actions and beliefs by international media, foreign officials and other critics abroad.

In a recent statement, the chief spokesman for the government, Zabihullah Mujahid, took issue with criticisms by foreign officials and human rights groups after new reports circulated of harsh corporal punishments such as lashings being meted out in rural areas for theft and adultery.

The statement said that comments by foreign officials calling “Islamic penal laws cruel, inhumane and degrading” are “an insult toward Islam and a violation of international principles.”

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