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‘No choice’ says Afghan journalist whose photo on street went viral. Taliban offers him job

After a tweet of former newsreader Mosa Mohammadi selling food on a pavement went viral, Taliban’s Director General of National Radio and Television reached out.

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New Delhi: A tweet showing former Afghan journalist Mosa Mohammadi selling food on a pavement has gone viral, highlighting the state of journalism in Afghanistan. The photo, posted by fellow journalist and activist Nilofar Ayoubi, is a stark contrast to his days as a newsreader when he appeared before the camera clad in a blazer and tie.

Forced to work as a daily labourer after regime change in Afghanistan, Mohammedi has turned his back on journalism.  “I was left with no other choice but to work whatever job I could get to be able to provide for my family,” Mohammadi told ThePrint. “I tried [for jobs in] all media sectors—even NGOs and the private sector, and got no response. So, I was left with only one choice—daily labour.” He has been at home since the day his pictures were posted on social media.

Mohammadi has been in journalism since 2011, having worked as a news reader at several Afghan media outlets like Arman FM, Radio Salam Watandar, Jahan TV, and Ayna TV.

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Financial troubles

Mohammadi had just started his new job at Ariana News, one of Afghanistan’s largest independent news channels, when it began having financial trouble. Ariana News broadcasts some of Afghanistan’s most popular programs, such as the investigative political show Haqiqat (The Truth). It has also aired various Indian soaps.

One month into his new job, Mohammadi was laid off along with other colleagues. The timing coincided with rising inflation and the Taliban coming to power. “I am married, and I was jobless for 6-7 months at home,” Mohammadi said. Then things took a turn for the worse when his mother’s health deteriorated. Already battling high blood pressure and a heart condition, she had a fall and broke her leg, he said. “Problems and difficulties piled up. A brother of mine is a government employee—a clerk—and he couldn’t afford to help at home. I wasn’t able to provide for my family and parents either, as I still have to pay off the debt I incurred from marriage expenses,” said Mohammadi.

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No to journalism

As Ayoubi’s tweet gained traction online, the Taliban’s Director General of National Radio and Television, Ahmadullah Wasiq, had his say. He tweeted that he would give Mohammadi a job but did not specify what the role would be.

Wasiq also underscored the need for Afghan professionals in the tweet. He is currently serving as the acting director for intelligence and deputy central spokesperson of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

In response to whether he will consider the Taliban’s offer, Mohammadi told ThePrint that he has decided to leave the industry and stop working in media. He’s open to anything but working in journalism. However, he says he’s grateful for Ayoubi’s support and her tweet, which went viral on 15 June.

“We have many stories like this, but only some of them go viral,” said journalist Ayoubi, who first put out the tweet while at the National Dialogues Conference in Helsinki. She said she saw his story being shared on a Facebook group. “I was upset and tweeted with full frustration,” she said.

The situation of journalists in Afghanistan, she says, made her question her own role in the media landscape. “What’s the use of us going to conferences and talking about our experiences when we feel so helpless? Even if I try, how many can I help? It’s just not enough.”

(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)

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