The launch of Afghanistan International TV (AITV) by Volant Media UK Ltd., the parent company of Iran International TV, coincided with the Taliban’s capture of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. The timing of the launch highlighted the critical role that media can play in situations of political upheaval, particularly when a country is undergoing a chaotic transition period following the withdrawal of foreign military forces.
AITV aims to provide 24/7 international news coverage to its audience and serve as a source of reliable information for those seeking updates on the situation in Afghanistan. With the media under threat from the Taliban, AITV’s launch was a significant moment for media freedom in the country.
Harun Najafizada, the director of AITV, spoke to Iran International TV about the network’s aspirations to be a voice for the voiceless and to tell the stories of the people of Afghanistan. Najafizada also revealed concerning reports of the Taliban’s tense relationship with the media community and the severe disruption of independent journalistic activities.
As the situation in Afghanistan continues to be in a state of flux, AITV hopes to fill a media vacuum that has developed as many people flee the country. The network’s launch comes earlier than planned, with the original start date slated for September 21, which is United Nations’ International Peace Day. The hope is that AITV can provide a critical source of reporting and information amid rapidly shifting events on the ground.
At present, AITV broadcasts nine hours of live television news and programs daily. The network plans to expand to a full 24/7 schedule as soon as possible. Additionally, AITV has a radio stream that is already offering 24-hour news and programs.
In terms of programming, Najafizada stated that AITV plans to rely heavily on reporting from across Afghanistan and produce informative programs such as talk shows, documentaries, and debates to engage with people both inside and outside Afghanistan. AITV will be an independent and impartial channel reporting facts in keeping with standard journalistic norms.
AITV’s launch comes at a time when media freedom in Afghanistan is under severe threat. Reports suggest that the Taliban has already started to censor news and silence critical voices. With the Taliban in control of the country, the media has become a vulnerable target.
The Taliban’s tense relationship with the media community is not new. The militant group has always tried to control the narrative and shape public opinion by suppressing critical voices. In recent years, journalists and media outlets have faced increasing levels of harassment, intimidation, and violence. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 53 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan since 1992.
Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, there have been reports of the group’s members intimidating journalists, raiding media outlets, and confiscating equipment. The Taliban has also taken steps to restrict access to information by shutting down the internet and social media services in some parts of the country.
Against this backdrop, AITV’s launch represents a beacon of hope for media freedom in Afghanistan. The network’s commitment to independent and impartial journalism is a welcome development. It is essential to have media outlets that can report on events objectively, provide accurate information, and hold those in power accountable.
Najafizada emphasized that AITV is an independent and impartial channel that reports facts, regardless of the political climate. He also stressed that AITV is prepared for any scenario, highlighting the network’s commitment to continuing its operations, even if the Taliban tries to censor or intimidate its journalists.