‘Visibly petrified’ Afghan TV anchor reads news while surrounded by gun-toting men

‘Visibly petrified’ Afghan TV anchor reads news while surrounded by gun-toting men
Anchor reportedly urged Afghans to co-operate with the group and ‘not be afraid’

A video of an Afghansk TV presenterer dressed in a suit and tie continuing to host his talk show while surrounded by gun-toting Taliban fighters has gone viral on social media.

The 42-second clip shows the host of Afghanistan TV, identified by Vice as Mirwaiz Haidari Haqdost, sitting next to a Taliban leader while reading out a statement from the hardline group.

According to media reports, the men stormed the building on Sunday and demanded to speak to the presenter. The anchor, who held the programme in Pashto, spoke about the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government in Afghanistan and urged locals to cooperate with the group and “not be afraid”.

The irony of the gunmen appearing in front of a banner identifying the programme as from “Afghanistan’s Peace Studio” was not lost on social media users, who were quick to point out the dire state of press freedom and individual liberty under Taliban rule.

“Afghanistan TVsurreal,” wrote BBC anchor Yalda Hakim. “This is what a political debate now looks like on Afghan TV, Taliban foot soldiers watching over the host. The presenter talks about the collapse of the Ghani govt & says the Islamic Emirate says the Afghan people should not to be afraid #Afghanistan

“This is surreal,” wrote Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad. “Taliban militants are posing behind this visibly petrified TV host with guns and making him to say that people of #Afghanistan shouldn’t be scared of the Islamic Emirate. Taliban itself is synonymous with fear in the minds of millions. This is just another proof.”

“With armed Taliban fighters standing behind him, the presenter of Afghan TV’s Peace Studio political debate programme says the Islamic Emirate (Taliban’s preferred name) wants the public to ‘cooperate with it and should not be afraid’,” tweeted BBC reporter Kian Sharifi.

In another tweet, he wrote that the programme is called Pardaz. “In this longer video, the presenter interviews a Taliban fighter who presumably outranks the rest of the lot in the studio.”

In its first press conference since seizing the power two decades after it was ousted by a US-led coalition, Taliban leaders made assurances about allowing independent media to operate in the country.

Yet reports of attacks on journalists continue, and on 20 August Deutsche Welle said that militants conducting a house-to-house search for the German organisation’s journalist killed a close relative.

“It is evident that the Taliban are already carrying out organised searches for journalists, both in Kabul and in the provinces. We are running out of time!” the German public broadcaster was quoted as saying by AFP. It added that the Taliban raided the homes of at least three DW journalists.

På 25 august, Ziar Khan Yaad, a reporter with TOLO News, was allegedly assaulted by Taliban fighters in Kabul.

CNN captured footage of a Taliban fighter threatening to pistol-whip its journalists while international correspondent Clarissa Ward was conducting a piece-to-camera on the streets of Kabul.

And in a separate incident on 18 august, a Taliban fighter was accused of beating Ahmad Navid Kavosh, a reporter for the local broadcaster Khurshid TV when he was interviewing another Taliban fighter outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

Accusing the Taliban of a continuous assault on media personnel, the Committee to Protect Journalists has called upon the group to stop the attacks and demanded that they allow the press to operate freely.

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