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Afghan journalists warn of protest as violence scales new heights

By Farhad Naibkhel-Last week was tragic for Afghan journalists; govt badly failed in protecting journalists

KABUL: Expressing serious concerns over rise in violent crimes against journalists, Afghanistan’s Journalists Council and Media Bazar on Tuesday asked the government to take concrete steps for protection of journalists across the country.

In the past one week, eight journalists were threatened and assaulted by different groups in the country.

Amid the growing threats to journalists, Head of the Journalists Council of Afghanistan, Hafizullah Barakzai, said that media-persons are tired of “hollow promises” as newsmen and women are facing serious and constant threats with no end in sight.

A week ago, the unity government has claimed to provide foolproof security to journalists, and prosecute the violence cases. According to Barakzai no step was taken by the relevant authorities to translate the claims into actions.

“We [journalists] are tired of slogans. We do not need government’s statements anymore. We want action now. Therefore, the government must deliver on the commitments that it has made regarding freedom of speech,” he said.

Journalists in different parts of the country, including Kabul City, Helmand, Ghazni, Kunduz and other provinces have lodged complaints with the journalists’ bodies in the country that they are assaulted and threatened by the state and non-state actors on daily basis which hampered their professional work.

Condemning growing attacks on the journalists in the country during last week, Barakzai said the relevant organizations should seriously prosecute the cases and bring the perpetrators to justice.

He warned of launching protests if the government “continued to act like a silent spectator”.

“Free media is a gift and achievement for Afghanistan. Failure of the government to protect it will have serious consequences. We will lose this achievement gradually,” he said.

Barakzai said that mafia and corrupt people in the government see freedom of speech and powerful media organizations in the country as threat. “Corrupt individuals in the unity government do not want their crimes to be revealed. Therefore, they are afraid of independent media. Thus, it is required of government to support media to unveil faces of corrupt officials,” he said.

Encouraging journalist to fight for their rights by boycotting the government media conferences, he said that if media-persons could not fight for their rights, “then how can they fight for public rights in the country.”

Slamming the government for inattention toward increase in violence against journalists, Chief of Media Bazar, Hamed Poya, said that last week was a tragic for journalist community.

Head of the Media Bazar, a journalistic association in the country, said that nine journalists were beaten and threaten by unknown and influential people as well as government employees in the capital city, Kabul, and different provinces.

He said the unity government promised to defend freedom of speech and support media outlets, but till date has taken no measures in this regard.

“Threats and violence against journalists and media outlets are growing with each passing day. Situation will worsen further if the government failed to pay serious attention,” he said, adding that many media organizations would collapse gradually and “freedom of speech will become a history” as the relevant authorities are not addressing outstanding challenges faced by the journalist community.

Poya said that many cases of violence against journalists were reported in the past two years, but not even a single case was prosecuted.

According to a fresh report, nine journalists were beaten and threaten in the past one week, including the editor-in-chief of Afghanistan Times Abdul Saboor Sarir, employee of Radio Killid Network Taj Mohammad Sikandar, Aljazeera’s reporter Rahmatullah Nikzad, Maiwand TV’s anchorperson Ahmad Seer Nikzad, news reporters Mohammad Hassan and Yasin Azhand in Ghor, Ahmad Wali in Zabul, and Habibullah Azizi in Takhar.

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