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HomeWorldTolo woman journalist who interviewed Taliban flees Afghanistan before US completes pullout

Tolo woman journalist who interviewed Taliban flees Afghanistan before US completes pullout

Beheshta Arghand, who made news for interviewing Taliban earlier this month, says she fears what they could do to her, but says she'll return if group keeps its promises, & she feels safe.

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New Delhi: Beheshta Arghand, the first female news anchor to interview the Taliban on live television earlier this month, has fled Afghanistan for fear of what she might be subjected to as the fundamentalist group tightens its grip on the country.

The 24-year-old news anchor at TOLO, an Afghan news network, Arghand made headlines worldwide when she interviewed a senior Taliban representative on the air.

“I left the country because, like millions of people, I fear the Taliban,” she told CNN Business in an interview Monday.

“If the Taliban do what they said — what they promised — and the situation becomes better, and I know I am safe and there is no threat for me, I will go back to my country and I will work for my country. For my people,” she added.

Two days after her interview with the Taliban, she made news again, this time for her interview with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist who almost died after Taliban militants shot her in her head in 2012 for campaigning for girls’ education rights. According to TOLO, this was the first time the young activist had ever been interviewed on Afghan television.

Arghand told CNN that she had worked at TOLO as a news presenter for just a month and 20 days. While she admitted that speaking to the Taliban on 17 August was “difficult”, she said she “did it for Afghan women”.

She added that she had dreamt of becoming a journalist since she was in class 9 and had studied journalism at the Kabul University for four years before working at several news agencies and radio stations until joining TOLO.

As the Taliban settle in for a second regime while the US and NATO forces work to meet the 31 August troops withdrawal deadline, tensions have been high in the country that has been witnessing bomb attacks at the Kabul airport where Afghans and US allies have been attempting to find passage out of the country.

Also read: Women in govt? Haha, say Taliban members in viral video from Vice documentary

Press under threat

Saad Mohseni, the owner of TOLO, said Arghand’s case is “emblematic of the situation in Afghanistan”.

Talking about the consequences of having let go of some of their best reporters, Mohseni told CNN’s Reliable Sources over the weekend: “Almost all our well-known reporters and journalists have left. We have been working like crazy to replace them with new people. We have the twin challenge of getting people out [because they feel unsafe] and keeping the operation going.”

On Monday, a video clip surfaced showing a news presenter on Afghan TV network Peace Studio conducting a telecast while two armed Taliban militants can be seen standing right behind him. A wider pan of the studio showed several other Taliban members gathered there.

Only last month, the killing of Pulitzer-prize winning Reuters photojournalist, Danish Siddiqui, shocked the media community. Siddiqui, who was embedded with the Afghan government forces, had been covering the conflict before the country fell to the Taliban.

His body was reportedly mutilated by the Taliban, a charge the group has denied.

Last week, the Taliban allegedly beat Ziar Khan Yaad, another reporter for TOLO news, who claimed the militants had confiscated cameras and microphones from his team while he was reporting in Kabul.

German news broadcaster Deutsche Welle also claimed the Taliban killed and injured two family members of one of their Afghan journalists, who is now based in Germany.

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)

Also read: ‘Typical BBC reporter’: Afghan envoy slams journalist for tweet on Taliban violence


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