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Dereliction of fourth estate?

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For the last two decades, the Taliban have lived in the shadows of mountains and minarets, and have lost touch with modern-day societal aspirations. Yet they have the audacity to uproot the budding tree of democracy in Afghanistan while the whole world is watching. After a period of deep slumber, the Taliban have become the Newsmakers lately, and the kind of news they are making has grave security implications globally.

Over the years, with various mobile platforms (like social networking sites, instant messengers, and microblogging apps) becoming ubiquitous, the Taliban and their atrocities are watched over from all sides, and they are simply unable to grapple with the pace of international news they are breaking live. Inadvertently, some of their atrocities are also getting leaked as viral news from their own men. So, it is simply beyond the Taliban’s control that their diabolical deeds couldn’t stop getting exposed to the civilized world in this digital age.

Basically, the Taliban have clung to their archaic mindset, and now they want us all to revert to their primitive order, and dwell in their Islamic barns. Unlike animals, humans have evolved consciousness, and have tasted the fruits of democracy which they would not let go of easily. Hence most Afghans are refusing to live like animals under the Taliban whips, and are choosing to flee Afghanistan for they do not want to live as Dhimmis under Sharia law.

Unlike the earlier Taliban, as I have already highlighted in my previous article, the Taliban of 2021 is weak. Times have changed a lot since then and they are not in a position to do anything meaningful without outside support or international aid. 

That is the reason why they are putting up soft accommodative faces before the international media during their press meets, and are yearning for recognition, legitimacy, and international cooperation, only to unleash their Islam- to systematically violate human rights, kill free speech and subjugate Afghan people.

While the Taliban, the current Newsmakers from Afghanistan, are busy discharging inhumanity to Afghan people, the News providers that is the fourth estate which is supposed to play a pivotal role of being people’s watchdog, has become dozy and dormant. 

It is sad that the news media and reporters, even the foreign ones who enjoy better security than their Afghan counterparts, have committed themselves to sincerely toe the Taliban line for unknown reasons.

Various international media (like @BBC @CNN @DW @SkyNews @WION @RT @France24 @AlJazeera etc,) having a ground presence in Kabul seems to have self-imposed curbs to not touch upon sensitive subjects that could draw Taliban ire. And the Taliban have already roughed up Afghan media and journalists with lashes and death threats, and understandably they have fallen dead silent.

On the other hand, foreign journalists and media houses operating in Kabul enjoy relatively better freedom and security.  They could certainly ask tough questions to the Taliban Mullas during press conferences if they wish to do so.  

As the Taliban are hungry for international recognition, they have no other option but to cooperate with the international media and answer their pointed questions. So, there is no need for foreign media to self-impose Sharia law and dance to the tunes of Taliban, Pakistan, and China. 

Moreover, the Taliban have not yet established a full-fledged functioning government in Afghanistan to fully borrow China’s model of curbing their fourth estate i.e, by tightened grip on information, news flow, and freedom of speech.

Further, the Islamic world doesn’t have a single legitimate pontiff, to authentically clarify on issues of their political theology and agendas. Now is an opportune time to get them talking and time is fast ticking. Unfortunately, the fourth estate is not recognizing this opportunity, neglecting its responsibilities, and is cheerleading for the Taliban by questioning them on superficial matters. The Media seems to be partnering with the Taliban to secure them the much-needed international recognition.

Amusingly enough, Taliban’s Mullah Baradar is made Time’s 100 Most Influential People Of 2021. What influence can a Mullah wield among the warring factions of Taliban who are trying to grab power from each other? There was absolutely no need for him to be made influential but some media houses have chosen to do so, maybe for a few windfall advertisement dollars from China.  

I must remind here that the role being played, by the fourth estate and their heroes, at this crucial moment in Afghanistan impacts millions of people. The very raison d’être of the fourth estate is to investigate, verify, report, and ask hard questions to those in power on matters of governance and public policy. Especially when there is no functioning state and judiciary, and when the oppressed and the vulnerable cannot have a tenable voice, the role of media and reporters will become ever important and indispensable.

Taliban claim to fight for an ideal muslim ummah that should piously be engaged in a righteous jihad aimed at establishing their Allaha ordained Islamic system. So, now is the golden chance to ask questions and get clarification about Taliban’s true ideology and Islam as their guiding religion. 

And the Taliban is bound to respond to all questions posed to them as they are in a vulnerable position with growing domestic dissent, dwindling finances, while at the same time when they are longing to gain legitimacy and quick recognition from the world community. Like it is with China, once they get global recognition and a strong foothold on the Afghan government and its finances, they will not respond to the media later on, and are not expected to behave civilized. 

So it will be interesting to see if any hero from the Fourth Estate can gear up his/her gumption to pose some of the following tough questions during any of the upcoming Taliban’s press conference presided by their Mullas: 

  1. In what fundamental ways Taliban ideology differs from ISIS and Al-Qaeda’s.
  2. Amoung the Taliban, ISIS and Al-Qaeda, who are the true followers of Islam.
  3. Does the Taliban see the USA and EU as enemies of Islam.
  4. According to Islamic Sharia Law under Taliban regim, what options does a non-believers/ Kafirs have if they refuses to convert to Islam, pay Jizya or leave Afghanistan. 
  5. Does the Taliban empathise with fellow muslims who are getting oppressed in Xinjiang, China.
  6. According to Taliban, does Islam profess bringing the whole world under Sharia Law.
  7. Does the Taliban support Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammed?
  8. Does Taliban consider Shia muslims and Iran as true followers of Islam.

The primary reason for the rise of tyranny is when the media folks do not ask the right questions to the right people at the right time. Not because the tyrants have become stronger or gained legitimacy.

So, for all the reasons mentioned above, the fragile Taliban will have to manage to answer all these questions. Making them to explicitly spell out their position on the above questions will have wider ramifications in the region. For example, the question on muslims of Xinjiang will galvanize new dynamics and impact Taliban’s relationship with China. Likewise, discord among Taliban, ISIS & Al-Qaeda will set in when they try to answer about who are the true followers of Islam.

Accordingly, the answers they give to the questions on the USA, EU, and their relationships with other terror groups (LeT, HM, JeM) will have far-reaching implications on their recognition, legitimacy and on the future of Afghanistan. This will reveal the Taliban’s true intent and nature and will help the world community to decide on an appropriate future course of action for Afghanistan.

So to reiterate, the primary purpose of the Fourth Estate is to inform its patrons and not to entertain them. Echelons of the Fourth Estate must realize that the freedom of press they enjoy comes with innate responsibility to be the people’s watchdog. Press Media is the only active force of good currently present in Afghanistan which could decide the fate of Afghanistan State, and the commoners in Afghanistan and the world community are seriously banking on it. 

Most Media houses outside Afghanistan, even the reputed ones, are anyhow plagued with fake news allegations and are slowly losing credibility. Some well-established media houses are also struggling to survive because their news is hardly interesting anymore or they are not making any meaningful impact to our civilizational advancements. 

Further, it is no secret that media houses have their own inclinations towards left, right or center, and in some cases have become avid mouthpieces of their governments. That is the reason why microblogging new sites have gained prominence to get first-hand news information without any distortions. 

But one must understand that Afghanistan is one such issue that should concern all the civilized world irrespective of one’s political inclinations. Genuine Media has a great and indispensable role to play in Afghanistan. Now is the time when Media gets a chance to chart the nation’s history and gain credibility. 

History has shown that the Media has had the great honor to successfully shatter the unworthy’s hopes to claim power with just one interview. Will the Fourth Estate uphold its solemn responsibility bestowed upon it by Us the People, or will it continue with blatant dereliction of its duties by turning a blind eye to the horrors of Taliban remains to be seen. 

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