NEW YORK: The Taliban must cease their relentless crackdown on independent media in Afghanistan and allow the privately owned radio station Kawoon Ghag to resume operations, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On June 13, Taliban intelligence officers in the eastern province of Laghman, along with officials from the provincial governor’s office and directorate of information and culture, raided Kawoon Ghag’s office in the city of Mehtarlam, according to the station’s owner Inqilabi Yousefzai and the Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC), an exiled media advocacy group.

The officials stopped broadcasting and expelled the station’s 20 staff before sealing and taking control of the building, Yousefzai told CPJ, adding that intelligence officers told him that he was no longer the station’s owner as it had been launched with international funding.

“The Taliban intelligence agency must immediately and unconditionally reverse its ban on Kawoon Ghag, allow the radio station to resume broadcasting, and its rightful owner to assume ownership,” said CPJ Asia Programme Coordinator Beh Lih Yi. “The forcible takeover of an independent broadcaster shows a dangerous new trend in the Taliban’s silencing of private media. This unprecedented level of suppression must stop.”

The closure and takeover were ordered by the Taliban’s intelligence agency, the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI), a source who reviewed a letter by the agency’s deputy public and media relations director told CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisals.

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