Afghan Exiled Media and the Struggle for Truth Amidst Taliban Oppression
The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has had a devastating impact on the sphere of free and independent media. Following their seizure of power, the Taliban systematically suppressed journalists and the free press, forcing media outlets and editors to comply with the new regime's rules. This hostile environment resulted in the removal of entertainment and music shows from television and radio broadcasts. The group's oppression escalated, leading independent media outlets to either cease operations or become propaganda tools for the regime. Since August 2021, UNAMA has documented over 80 cases of mistreatment, torture, disappearance, and murder of journalists and media workers. Some of the journalists fled the country and established their own media outlets in exile, working tirelessly to collect firsthand information from anonymous sources and disseminate it to the world. However, most of the journalists who fled the country, now find themselves in precarious labor situations.
This panel discussion aims to shed light on the critical issue of supporting journalists in exile and their role in promoting democracy and freedom of speech (telling the truth) in Afghanistan. It will explore the challenges they face, the impact of their work, and how the international community can assist them in their mission. By addressing these questions, we hope to contribute to a better understanding of the situation and offer practical solutions for supporting journalists in exile and safeguarding the principles of democracy and free expression.
Kathy Kiely is a veteran reporter and editor with a multimedia portfolio and a passion for transparency, free speech, and teaching. After a long career covering politics in Washington, Kiely moved into the classroom full-time because, she says, universities are the laboratories that will discover the formula for making fact-based journalism viable again. A 2017-18 journalism lecturer at the University of New Hampshire, Kiely has also taught at American University, George Washington University and Princeton University. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, a master’s degree from American University and was a Knight Fellow at Stanford University.
Zahra Joya is an award-winning Afghan journalist and founder of Rukhshana Media, an organization that tells the stories of Afghan women to both a domestic and global audience. In 2021, after Kabul fell to the Taliban, Joya was evacuated to the United Kingdom. She currently lives and works in London. Joya was one of 12 women named Time’s Women of the year in 2022. She was recognized for her journalism and was interviewed by Angelina Jolie.
Samiullah Mahdi is the Editor-in-Chief of Amu TV, where he is leading Afghanistan’s largest hybrid newsroom of more than thirty journalists in the US and over two dozen others across the world. Mr. Mahdi is former Director of PAYK Investigative Journalism Center and fellow at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center. He was recently the Bureau Chief of Radio Azadi (Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty) in Afghanistan and Strategic Advisor to TOLOnews. He worked as CEO of Khurshid TV from 2013-2014 and as Director of News and Current Affairs at 1TV from 2009-2013. In 2012, Mr. Mahdi was awarded the Knight International Journalism Award by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) for his "excellent and courageous reporting”.
Zaki Daryabi is an award-winner renowned journalist from Afghanistan currently living in exile. He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Etilaatroz and KabulNow newspapers. He has been known for his investigative journalism exposing chronic nepotism and corruption within Afghanistan’s previous republic. In 2020, he won Transparency International’s Anti-Corruption Award. C urrently, he operates The Etilaatroz and KabulNow from Silver Spring, Maryland.
Deborah Amos is a Ferris Professor of Journalism in Residence. A longtime international correspondent, Amos spent much of her award-winning career at National Public Radio. Her reporting on the Middle East and refugees in the U.S. regularly featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and All Things Considered. She recently covered the Syrian and Iraqi refugee crises, the economy in the Middle East, and the Arab youth surge. Previously she reported for ABC’s Nightline and PBS’s Frontline.
Amos is the author of two books: Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East, and Lines in the Sand: Desert Storm and the Remaking of the Arab World. She has won several major journalism honors, including a Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation, a George Foster Peabody Award, an Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award, and an Emmy.