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15 journalists killed last year in Afghanistan: RSF

AT-KABUL: At least 15 journalists were killed in different violence cases in 2017 in Afghanistan, the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.

The Paris-based organization said Wednesday in a report that 2017 was the “deadly period” for journalists in the war-torn country.

The report reflected “growing animosity towards journalists. Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies”.

“Taliban and Islamic State militants have created information black holes. In some provinces, Taliban forced the media to pay arbitrary taxes that were tantamount to ransoms,” said the RSF.

It added that many governors and local officials are meanwhile unable to accept the principle of media independence, and the police and military have been implicated in several cases of violence against journalists.

The decline in security has had a direct impact on the number of women working in the media. Many of them have been forced to abandon their work because of growing threats and the climate of violence they face. In response to the threats, the Afghan authorities and media representatives have jointly launched coordination committees for the safety of journalists and media

The report, however, said that Afghanistan had recently had a two-rank progress in media freedom in 2018. It ranked Afghanistan 118th, while Norway positioned first and North Korea the last.

The Paris-based organization has put Afghanistan in a “better position” in the region by the number of media outlets.

Vice President, Sarwar Danesh, hailed the country’s media stance in the region, but said that Afghan journalists were still suffering “many problems”.

Danesh who also heads the ‘joint government and media committee’, said Wednesday that the national unity government and the committee were making efforts to solve the media problems.

“The government in the past 15 years and particularly in the past three years has been fully committed in the maintenance, empowerment and support for the freedom of speech, and terrorists are targeting democracy and freedom of expression more than any other things,” Danesh said at a conversation held titled ‘the importance of freedom of speech and media’.

He added that complaints from journalists put aside in the past, had been assessed in the past one year and half and were referred to judiciary.

The media supporting organization (NAI) had earlier said that over 160 cases of violence against journalists were registered in 2017.

The National TV branch in Nangarhar, Shamshad TV station in Kabul, the Sarhad (Border) Radio in Ghor and the AVA news agency in Kabul came under terrorist attacks in the past year.

In the latest incident, a journalist working for the Kabul News television, was shot dead by unknown gunmen Wednesday in Kandahar province.

The committee for journalists’ safety also says that insecurity, lack of access to information and financial problems were obstacles before journalists in the remote areas.

The UN special envoy for Afghanistan said that the organization supports media freedom in Afghanistan and works closely with the government in resolving journalists’ problems.

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