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Editorial: Press Freedom at Risk

Without doubt, media outlets in Afghanistan have flourished after the collapse of the Taliban regime nearly 20 years ago. There are hundreds of media in Kabul and in provinces, plus thousands of social media users who often focus on the current situation of the country. At the outset, media workers were enjoying a secure environment. They had zero fear of being targeted or to become a victim of any heart-wrenching incident. Both the male and female journalists were enthusiastically following their daily activities and never bogged down their efforts to get first hand news with accurateness. But these peaceful surroundings did not last long, and soon the journalists started receiving threats. Insecurity remains a concern and many journalists are now exposed to threats and violence in a country where the situation continues to be volatile. Currently there are 190 audiovisual media outlets working in Afghanistan including 250 print media outlets, but since 2014, 100 media outlets have stopped operation. Only in 2020, seven journalists and one media worker were killed in the line of duty. We lost four anchors, three reporters and a cameraman last year in the different terrorist incidents across the country. Paradoxically, two anchors were killed by Daesh terrorists, and the Taliban, a group where the Afghan and U.S. are trying to make peace with, is responsible for killing one reporter and a cameraman and unknown gunmen are responsible for killing two anchors. Unfortunately, the level of threats to journalists and media workers has been unprecedentedly high in recent months and continues unabated. In total, the Afghan journalists faced 112 incidents of violence against them last year, in which 19 journalists and media workers were wounded. The current year (2021) apparently seems more dangerous as on the first day of the year, a reporter, Bismillah Adil Aimaq was assassinated by unidentified gunmen in Ghor province. Regrettably, if the rigorous situation continues, it would be very much difficult for the journalists to keep on their duty – already a number of journalists have fled the country. The environment of mistrust has reached its peak and now the Journalists are criticizing the Afghan government for its reluctance to protect the journalist community in the wake of the recent spate of targeted killings. One of the best achievements of Afghanistan is without doubt, is a free media, which is now under immense attack. Waging war against journalists has come as a shock to everyone. Security officials and agencies advocating for the media, must come up to the fore with a comprehensive plan to safeguard the life of journalists, especially in such a particularly stage where targeted killing of journalists constricted the space for press freedom and free flow of information.

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