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Russian state media orders reporters to stop calling the Taliban a ‘banned terrorist organization’

In an abrupt policy change, the Russian state news agency Rossiya Segodnya has forbidden its reporters from referring to the Taliban in published content as a terrorist organization that is banned in Russia. The Telegram channel Ostorozhno Novosti (a project by Ksenia Sobchak) broke the story, sharing a copy of an internal memo sent to the news agency’s personnel.

“Colleagues, starting today, we will stop presenting the Taliban as an organization banned in Russia. We will write its name with an asterisk and the note: ‘This organization is under UN sanctions for terrorist activity,’” the memo informed staff.

An employee at RIA Novosti, a Rossiya Segodnya subsidiary, confirmed to Ostorozhno Novosti that he received such instructions.

The new wording has already appeared in news reports about the Taliban published by RIA Novosti and Russia Today.

Rossiya Segodnya’s subsidiaries previously referred to the Taliban as “a terrorist organization banned in Russia.”

On October 21, 2021, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will “move in the direction” of delisting the Taliban as a terrorist group, though the president stressed that the UN Security Council should be the first to change the Taliban’s designation. At the time of this writing, the Taliban are still named on Russia’s federal list of banned terrorist organizations. This has happened before: In November 2018, management at RIA Novosti ordered staff not to mention in reporting about the Taliban that it is a banned terrorist organization in Russia.

In October 2021, Russia’s federal censor flagged the independent news website Republic for mentioning the Taliban without clarifying the organization’s banned terrorist status. Republic editor-in-chief Dmitry Kolezev says the state media’s new policy and the charges against his website demonstrate Russia’s “two parallel legal realities.”