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Editorial: Time and again

Afghan government, so-called human rights organizations, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and democratic forces in the country published several reports about human rights’ violations. Most of these reporters focused on either one or the other group with an overview about overall situation. But, most of these reports have not touched violence against journalists. Only Afghan journalist bodies highlighted the problems faced by media-persons in the war-hit country. As donors and the international community take more interest in specific groups that could be used for point scoring, therefore, miseries of Afghan journalists are not reflected. Governmental and non-governmental organizations have abandoned newsmen and women in the country.

The result is increased in the cases of violence against journalists. On Sunday night, the editor-in-chief of Afghanistan Times came under attack in Khwaja Bughra area of Kabul City. He was assaulted by three gunmen driving a Helix, a vehicle afforded only by well-off people and organized criminal groups enjoy impunity. Abdul Saboor Sarir was not only assaulted by his car, mobile phones and laptop, were also taken by the attackers in the 15th Police District of Kabul, which is hardly 3.5 kilometers away from the Ministry of Interior. Distance from the crime scene to the key security organizations project a gloomy picture of the journalists’ rights status and their safety. Second, it was not too late. Mr Sarir was attacked at 9:00 pm.

Third, it was not for the first time. Journalists are frequently harassed, tortured, abducted and killed in this country. The government has not investigated even five percent of the violence cases. In some cases influential officials and people are involved.  Impunity to powerful people as a culture has taken deep roots in the system and society. Five months ago, some people tried to kidnap Abdul Saboor Sarir. However, he was lucky that time as a police vehicle approached the scene and the kidnappers fled. Every so often, journalists asked for police investigation in the cases but the efforts went in vain.

As media is considered fourth pillar of the state in democratic system, therefore, it should get the respect and protection that the other three branches—executive, legislature and judiciary—are receiving.  Either the county has no democracy or there is no such thing as a fourth pillar. In both cases Afghan media is facing a difficult situation. Since media is a bridge between the ruling class and public. Thus, the government cannot ignore its importance. Increase in cases of violence against journalists would alienate the government further. To restore trust of media-persons over the current government, the relevant authorities should investigate the violence cases against newsmen and women on war footing.

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