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KABUL: Scores of journalists are among the tens of thousands of people trying to flee Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, fearful of violent reprisals from the militants.

Despite their assurances, the Islamist group's return to power is seen as a serious blow to Afghan media, which saw explosive growth after the first Taliban regime was toppled in 2001.

There was no Afghan media to speak of when the Islamists ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. They banned television, movies and most other forms of entertainment for being immoral. Some electronic products were outlawed as un-Islamic too.

People caught watching TV faced punishment, including having their set smashed. Ownership of a video player could lead to a public lashing. For a while, magnetic ribbon tape from destroyed cassettes could be seen fluttering from trees in some parts of the capital Kabul.

There was only one radio station, Voice of Sharia, that broadcast propaganda and Islamic programming. Under the US-backed setup formed after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, there was massive growth in the Afghan media sector, including private TV and radio networks.

And it was not just news - movies, soap operas, talent shows and music videos were also produced. Afghanistan now has more than 50 TV channels, 165 radio stations and dozens of publications, watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said this month, citing the national press federation.

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