Freedom of the press is an essential pillar to any democracy and fortunately, journalists enjoy a significant level of freedom in Afghanistan – a climate for journalists which is better than some regional countries. Conversely, Afghanistan is also full of grave dangers to journalists who put their lives at stake to seek complete and reliable information and deliver it to the society. As recently highlighted by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in its annual Global Impunity Index, Afghanistan remains high on the list as it is the sixth-worst country in prosecuting those who murder journalists in direct retaliation for their work. The committee recently reported that the country still has 11 unresolved killings to deal with. This is while last year at least 15 brave journalists were killed for doing their job and so far this year, five have lost their lives. As November 02 marks the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, it is a day to reflect on the perils and insecurity facing Afghan journalists, to pay tribute to the brave journalists who lost their lives on this path and to the grab the attention of the government to end impunity in this regard.
The CPJ has called insecurity, political instability, uncontrolled corruption and lack of a political determination to prosecute cases of killings of reporters as the major elements of impunity to the culprits of journalists’ killings. This situation is gravely worrisome which only adds to the many problems faced by an already war-ravaged country because attacks on journalists are attacks on democracy itself. The recalcitrance and reluctance on the part of the government to seek criminal justice for such happenings are comparable to being equally complicit with the perpetrators of these crimes. It is, in fact, indicative of negligence in ensuring the freedom of the press and keeping the truth alive. These unsolved killings would cast a shadow over the ability of the press to carry out critical or investigative reporting freely because self-censorship would turn into a means of self-preservation. The government should pay serious heed to this matter and do all in its power to protect journalists by ensuring that there is no impunity for those who attack them. Also, the Taliban should renounce making threats and murdering Afghan media persons, as well as stop considering them military targets because it is they who bring the powerful to account by exposing corruption and demanding transparency. Therefore, they are in essence mirrors echoing the truths to the nation and they shouldn’t be shattered.