A TV host in Afghanistan appears in a video widely shared on social media telling the public that they should not be afraid of the new Taliban regime. While making this statement the host was flanked by two armed soldiers of that new regime, making the statement appear especially absurd for viewers around the world. The Taliban has been eager to present a conciliatory face to world media but it has not all gone smoothly for the former insurgents.
Public image problem for the Taliban
The background of the video is somewhat unclear though we can safely assume that the public was not originally intended to see this alarming situation.
Taliban leaders have been relentlessly working to reform their public image with international media since their triumph over the former government of Afghanistan.
Spokesmen have repeatedly emphasized a commitment to protecting the rights of journalists and the media, a claim much of the world is understandably skeptical about.
The Taliban fighters could have easily stood off camera while the host read his prepared statement, as they were likely ordered to. Instead they apparently felt an urge to be on TV.
The armed men stared menacingly at the host and the cameras as he read a statement about their peaceful intentions for the country.
The juxtaposition is embarrassing for those higher ranking Taliban members who have been working to present a new and more tolerant face to the Afghan public and the world.
Journalists choosing to stay
Discipline for the most part appears to have been extraordinarily high among the Taliban as their fighters swept across the country and into Kabul in August.
The massacres and repression most of the world expected from the insurgents did not immediately appear. Fighters were evidently being kept on a very tight leash by their commanders in public.
One high ranking member of the Taliban was even interviewed by a female TV anchor soon after their entry into Kabul. That anchor was unconvinced by their new public image and has since fled the country.
Many journalists sought to flee as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, expecting that their lives might be in danger if they continued to work in the country.
Others have chosen to stay despite knowing the risks. With Western media gone these local journalists will be responsible for keeping Afghanistan and the world informed about life under the Taliban.
Getting information to the public will be a dangerous mission for many of these Afghans but for now many apparently plan to continue their work under the new regime.