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Targeted-Killings of Journalists Threaten Free Media in Afghanistan

These attacks serve one purpose to spread fear and limit the freedom of speech – these evil designs of the anti-media elements must fail

By Basir

Media is one of the main elements of a democratic society. It reveals and probes truths naturally and impartially. The poisonous circles in a country often seek targeting the media family to keep their secret evil-face under the dark shadows hidden.

However, the hot flames of relentless war in Afghanistan have not failed to spot the media, recently the ways of targeting journalists appeared in a new tactic, with the peace negotiations engaging in ups and downs, and the violence has been increasing countrywide on a daily basis.

On Tuesday, three female journalists were shot dead by unknown gunmen in two separate attacks in Jalalabad, the capital city for the eastern province of Nangarhar. The slain journalists were working for Enikas, a private TV Channel in the province. They were identified as Sadia Sadaat, Shahnaz Raufi and Mursal Wahidi.  

The Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid denied their involvement in the assassination. Although the Taliban has constantly denied responsibility for the attacks on journalists and activists, the blame has fallen on them as the group is widely defamed for its drastic restriction on freedom of speech and freedom of press. The Islamic State (IS) also known as Daesh terrorist group, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Haroon Rahimi, the brother of one of the slain journalists, questioned the government authority that “how can you folks trust the Taliban to negotiate and how can we trust this peace process.”

“My little sister (Shanaz) was killed in Jalalabad. I cannot handle the pain and it’s really hard while I am abroad,” he added. In many cases, violence against journalists remained unsolved. Mallal Maiwand, a female anchor of the same TV Channel was killed in a similar incident last December. Yama Siawash, an anchor for TOLONews TV Channel, was killed in a sticky mine blast in PD 4 of Kabul last year. According to his relatives, the government didn’t cooperate sincerely to probe the issue due to some unknown reasons.

“Siawash is one of 29 Afghan journalists who has been murdered since 1994. He was considered one of Afghanistan’s most fearless journalists and was killed in a targeted attack,” the US embassy said in a tweet on Wednesday. “His killers are still unknown.”

The Reporters Sans Frontier placed Afghanistan on top of the dangerous countries for the journalists. The Afghanistan Journalists Protection Committee in its annual report announced a 26 percent increase in violence against journalists in 2020 in Afghanistan.

Murdering Afghan journalists faced widespread criticism by the Afghan and International Officials. Attacking the media is indeed attacking democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of press. Undermining the media activities affects the fundamentals of democracy in our country. As Afghanistan is at its initial steps of tracing democracy, each democratic element should be supported and maintained to pave the ground for an equal and justifiable society, where each citizen of this country enjoys his civil and human rights. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has reported that a large number of female journalists were forced to quit working in rural areas as the string of targeted-killings of media staff has been on the rise across the country.

Unfortunately, the government has not paid satisfactory efforts regarding the journalists’ safety. Last year 11 journalists were killed either in gunmen attack or magnetic bomb blasts.

The European Union termed the killing of 3 young female media workers from Enikassa TV as a war crime punishable under International Humanitarian Law.

“These attacks serve one purpose: to spread fear and limit the freedom of speech. We expect that these cruel acts are thoroughly and transparently investigated, and that those responsible are brought to justice,” the EU said in a statement.

“We call on the government to ensure the protection of journalists. The EU, together with its member states and partners will continue its support to the media in Afghanistan.”

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