Veteran television journalist Anisa Shaheed worked for TOLOnews in Afghanistan for over a decade before the Taliban came to power in 2021. Shaheed, the winner of the ICFJ Knight International Journalism Award, delivered the following remarks on Nov. 10 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC, at the ICFJ Tribute to Journalists 2022.
The poet Hafez said: “The man who was hanged was hanged because he told the truth.”
This is why the Taliban try to break our pens, and would cut off our heads if they could.
Greetings to all of you here and to all the journalists who stand for freedom of speech inside and outside Afghanistan. I dedicate this award to all of the fallen journalists who gave their lives for Afghanistan.
Since the takeover of my country, television and radio stations have been closed. All that are left work for the Taliban. They face severe restrictions and threats. They stay because they have no other option to make ends meet.
Journalists cannot speak out against cases of poverty, murder and corruption. Female journalists are not allowed to attend press conferences. No woman can openly show her face on media outlets. Almost 200 journalists have been arrested and tortured since the takeover.
Sometimes I think leaving Afghanistan was my biggest mistake. I should have stayed and fulfilled my duty.
Currently, Afghanistan’s news is not among the headlines of any world media and is not on the agenda of global superpowers.
We need to understand that terrorist groups are growing in Afghanistan, and al-Qaida is waiting right behind the Taliban.
I thank the International Center for Journalists for their support for freedom of speech, and once again ask organizations that support the media to pay attention to journalists in Afghanistan, including women journalists. I ask world leaders to take human rights issues, including for women, into consideration. I ask world leaders not to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government.
I really wanted to speak to you in English, and I have been practicing. I hope you have understood me!