On January 20, journalism in Afghanistan was dealt a killer blow. Seven employees of the country's first 24-hour news network, Tolo TV, were killed when the Taliban targeted their bus in a suicide bombing.

We are in a very critical juncture at the moment. This is about freedom, giving voice to a nation which was silenced for many decades, in our recent history. This is what the Afghan media has given to the Afghan people. And I'm hopeful that we're still going to grow. Because media and press freedom is something that the Afghan people want from the bottom of their heart.

Lotfullah Najafizada, Tolo TV

Last year, the armed group issued a statement in which it declared Tolo TV and Afghan network 1TV "military targets". The threat came in response to the channels' coverage of Taliban's invasion of Kunduz last September.

The stations alleged that fighters had been involved in gang rapes - claims the Taliban denied and cited as an "example of propaganda by these satanic networks".

The attack on Tolo TV leaves Afghan journalists between a rock and a hard place, with the threat posed by the Taliban exacerbated by pressure from government officials to report on Afghanistan in a way that suits their version of the political and social story - that progress is being made.

Until last week's attack on the media, government officials and those with links to them had been responsible for more threats against Afghan journalists - over stories about corruption, land grabs, violence against women and human rights abuses - than the Taliban were.

The phenomenal growth of Afghanistan's media sector has been considered one of the great success stories of the post-2001 reconstruction. But with journalists under fire and pressure from different sides, what does this mean for the future of journalism in the country? 

Talking us through this story are Lotfullah Najafizada, the head of Tolonews TV; Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar, the executive director at Nai; Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi, Afghanistan correspondent at DW; and Farahnaz Frotan, a journalist at Ariana TV.

Source: Al Jazeera