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Taliban Makes Good On A Promise To Target Afghan Media Networks


Afghanistan is always a difficult place for journalists to work. Then last fall, it became even more dangerous after the Taliban announced it was specifically targeting Afghanistan's two largest media networks. It called them Satanic networks that were putting out propaganda, and the insurgency would treat them as military objectives. Over the past 15 years, those TV and radio networks have filled the country with news and entertainment, opening up a world far different from the harsh life under Taliban rule. This week, the Taliban delivered on its threat. A suicide bomb attack on Wednesday killed seven employees of the MOBY group, the media company that owns the popular Tolo TV. I reached its CEO, Saad Mohseni on a scratchy line in Kabul.

SAAD MOHSENI: They were all in their 20s, all of them very aspirational. They were very enthusiastic. There was a young lady who was about to get married in the next couple of weeks. She had just been appointed as the head of creative for MOBY in Afghanistan, which is a huge division, especially for a female. To date, we've only had foreign creative heads, and she was going to take on this role. She was talented. She was ambitious. She was smart. She was good. You know, they all had parents. They all had siblings. They all had dreams, and these dreams have been taken away from these individuals and their families.

MONTAGNE: It is the case that back in October after the Taliban and leveled this threat on you, the network, another large TV network, you and I spoke, and you said, we're not in any way taking this likely. These are the lives of our people. And now that the Taliban has delivered on this really terrible promise to attack, what does that mean for how you do business there?

MOHSENI: Well, I mean, at the time, we had to be prepared and, you know, obviously we need to show our resolve and we have to persist. These are dark days for us, but we have to get through them. And what's interesting is that the support has been overwhelming. All day today, we've had people coming into the stations talking about the victims, talking about the importance of free press. But we're also very frustrated because there was a special national security meeting shared by the president to see what we needed, and our hope at the time was that we would be protected. And as recently as a couple of weeks ago, we had to go back to the government and say, listen, all the (unintelligible) - all the help that you had promised in terms of escorts, in terms of extra security of our facilities - we think they have not been delivered. So I'm not putting blame, but I'm just saying that our frustration over the last few weeks has been the fact that the promise made to us by the (unintelligible) government were mostly not fulfilled.

MONTAGNE: You know, we are doing this story because it's a terrible tragedy, but also because it specifically involves the Taliban threatening the Afghanistan media. What does this mean for media?

MOHSENI: You know, what we take for granted - you know, there's a lot of hard work over the last 14 or 15 years, and we will persist - I mean, I don't know about the other media organizations. We're not going to be (unintelligible). If anything, it will strengthen the resolve of our news people. You know, these - most of these kids have grown up in an environment that they realize what they have is special. They realize that they enjoy today - their parents did not enjoy. And for them, protecting and defending this is of paramount importance. You know, they seem just as determined, in a bizarre way, as the Taliban. The Taliban are there to destroy them, but they're there to protect what they have built over the last 15 years.

MONTAGNE: Saad Mohseni is the head of the MOBY group and cofounder of Tolo TV. Thank you very much for joining us.

MOHSENI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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