Afghan journalists, particularly women, are “absolutely petrified,” CNN’s chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward told CNN’s chief media correspondent Brian Stelter on “Reliable Sources” Sunday. “They’ve been doing bold and incredible reporting for many years, and now there’s a very real fear that they might face retaliations for that or that certainly they won’t be able to do their work anymore.”
“RSF is deeply concerned that the troop withdrawal will create an information vacuum and that the space for journalism will dwindle or disappear entirely,” said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire last month. “It is absolutely clear that there will be no lasting peace in Afghanistan without a purposeful commitment to the protection of journalists and to press freedom from the authorities.”
Many independent newsrooms in Afghanistan are “pretty much hunkered down at the moment,” Ward said, adding that “there is a sense of real concern that things could get chaotic on the streets.”
Allthough “there’s no sense at the moment that Western journalists are being targeted,” Ward said that her CNN crew had moved their live shot location indoors to avoid “potentially attracting a lot of attention.”
Concerns remain high that local reporters will be targeted for retaliation by the insurgents. “Some of these journalists and reporters know that they have a big X on their backs … because they have been so outspoken against the Taliban,” Ward said.
CNN’s crews in Afghanistan are being “exceptionally cautious,” Ward said, and will leave if necessary. But “for so many Afghans, that’s simply not an option. They’re here, they have to stay, they have to live with the consequences of this next chapter.”
— Diksha Madhok contributed to this report.