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Editorial: Journalism is not crime

It’s great news that Afghanistan was taken out of red area to green area in terms of freedom of speech by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). On November of this year, UNESCO in a meeting held in Paris said protection of freedom of expression and journalists and eliminating violence against media family in Afghanistan indicate that press freedom is on progress in the country. There is no doubt that Afghanistan scored significant progress in defending rights of journalists and promotion of the press, but at the same time, violence against journalists reported all the time. 2016 was bloodiest year ever for journalists and media outlets in Afghanistan. According to Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) 13 journalists were killed, a figure that is unprecedented. Change in Taliban’s policy toward journalists and media is the main driver behind increase in violence against journalists. The deliberate targeting of media reflected in the figure show that Taliban are responsible for 10 out of 13 killed journalists. In 2016, Taliban targeted a minibus carrying staffers of TOLONews, leaving seven martyred, while wounding more than 20 others. This was one of biggest inhuman act against media staffers. Moreover, in October 2016, the former Editor-in-Chief of Afghanistan Times, the leading English newspaper, was attacked by three armed men when he was returning home from office. He received head injuries. But like this, there were several attacks against media family. No one is feeling safe. So all media outlets, including my paper (Afghanistan Times) is under direct or indirect threat. But media groups nationwide have never give up in reflecting truths, revealing the true face of militant outfits that even don’t show mercy to the children and women. Anyway, 2107 was another bad time for journalists. In November of this year, at least two dead and 20 others received injures after two fighters loyal to the Islamic State (IS), also known as Daesh terrorist group, attacked Shamshad—a private TV channel in Kabul. This was another attempt of suffocating the voice of media, but this evil design of terrorists will never see light of the day and news cannot be stopped. Unfortunately, according to AJSC 10 journalists were killed in Afghanistan in the first half of 2017, a 35 percent surge over last year. 19 beating and 12 injured were also reported only in the first half of 2017. But one thing is for sure that such incidents against the media will not prevent journalists from doing their work and getting stories out to the people. Despite we are working in a fearful environment, but we will never shun making accurate and timely reporting, noting the fact that media role is crucial to hold government and administration accountable, ensures transparency in society and gives ordinary Afghan citizens a voice and information about what is happening around them. Moreover, there are several unreported violent incidents against journalist as well. Among every 10 Afghan journalist, five have been refusing investigation into incidents of violence happened to them. NAI director, Abdul Mujib Khelwatgar recently while briefing newsmen, said 56 percent journalists refused reporting violence happened against them to be investigated while 44 percent agreed for investigation. There could be many reasons behind this. Moreover, based on AJSC’s first six months report of 2017, during this period a total of 73 cases of violence against journalists have been recorded including 10 cases of murder. This shows that the Taliban insurgents and Daesh terrorists group have joined hands against Afghan media family, as both extremist groups have threatened and deliberately targeted major TV and radio stations and their staff members, and newspaper agencies across the country. Repeatedly attacking media staffers, has made Afghanistan one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists and forced media organizations to adopt new security measures. The militant groups carried out deadly attacks that have killed dozens of journalists and media employees. But why there is increase in attacks against journalist? We are not criminals, and not favoring anyone, but to come up to the fore with truthful and impartial news. Journalism is not a crime. We are civilized civilians at real scene with little differences of holding pen in hands and reporting incidents without personal likes and dislikes. Without doubt, these figures once again highlighted the multi-dimensional threat to journalists in Afghanistan, looking toward the national unity government to leave no stone unturned to protect journalists and freedom of expression in the country.

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