People walking down a street with wires strung above in the early morning

The Pen Vs. The AK-47: The Future of Afghan Media Under the Taliban

September 23, 2021
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Samiullah Mahdi, Afghan journalist and Spring 2021 Shorenstein Fellow, in discussion with Charles Sennott, founder of The Ground Truth Project and Report for America.

Media in Afghanistan flourished over the past twenty years, with independent, politically-affiliated, and internationally-supported media networks providing local, national, and international news as well as entertainment. Since the Taliban re-took control of the country in August, 2021, thousands of journalists have fled the country, and many news and media organizations have shut their doors.

Spring 2021 Shorenstein Fellow Sami Mahdi is an Afghan journalist who has worked across the media landscape in Afghanistan for the past decades. His new research, published this month, charts the rise and expansion of media in Afghanistan, and it’s likely future under the Taliban, and makes recommendations about what the international community can do to support free media in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Join Mahdi and veteran foreign correspondent Charles Sennott for a frank discussion about the current state and prospects for media and journalism in Afghanistan, and what it means for the future of the country.

Sami Mahdi is the Bureau Chief of Radio Azadi (Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty) in Afghanistan. He was previously Director of PAYK Investigative Journalism Center and Strategic Advisor to Tolonews. He worked as C.E.O. of Khurshid TV from 2013-2014 and as Director of News and Current Affairs at 1TV from 2009-2013. He has also been an op-ed contributor to major Afghan and international newspapers and magazines. In 2012, Mr. Mahdi was awarded the Knight International Journalism Award by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) for his “excellent and courageous reporting”. Mahdi holds a BA from the School of Law and Political Science of Kabul University (2009) and a MA in International Relations from the University of Massachusetts Boston as a Fulbright Scholar (2016). He currently teaches at the Policy and Public Administration School of Kabul University. While at the Shorenstein Center, Mahdi will write a paper on the role and strategy Afghanistan’s media should adopt in the aftermath of a political settlement with the Taliban.