Journalists in Afghanistan on Saturday criticized the Afghan government for its "reluctance" to protect the journalist community amid the recent spate of targeted killings.
This came hours after an angry mob, including the imam of a mosque, attacked Zohra Radio, a local radio station in the city of Kunduz, damaging equipment and the building.
Journalists have said that the attack was pre-planned.
They warned that press freedom is under attack in Afghanistan.
“In the past, we were afraid of armed opponents, but now we feel fear from our own people,” said Haseeb Hasas, a journalist in the northeastern province of Kunduz.
“The attack that happened to the radio station in Kunduz has gravely concerned us,” said Hedayatullah Ziarmal, the director of Radio Kunduz.
“They broke the doors and entered the studio,” said Mohsen Ahmadi, director of Radio Zohra.
The mob, which had just returned from Friday prayers, also flocked toward two other radio stations in the city, Radio Kaihan and Radio Chiragh, but they were prevented by security forces, local sources said.
The motive behind the attack has been said to be the airing of music by the radio station during Friday prayers, but Ahmadi rejected this claim.
The incident comes after a string of targeted attacks against Afghan journalists across the country.
Radio Zohra's broadcasting and program was stopped for several hours after the attack, Ahmadi said.
The Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee (AJSC) in a tweet condemned the attack on the Zohra radio station in Kunduz.
“AJSC is shocked by the attack on Radio Zohra, a local radio in Kunduz province today. We condemn the attack in the strongest terms and urge the government to undertake a thorough investigation so the perpetrators are brought to justice,” the organization said.
“The attack was incited by the imam of a local mosque. AJSC is closely following the incident with local officials and more updates will be available soon,” said AJSC.
The AJSC said the “protection of journalists and media is crucial, particularly at this stage where the targeted killing of journalists has already constricted the space for press freedom and the free flow of information.”
“This is completely an illegal act, even the Ulema said that the issue should have been resolved through a legal way,” said Shahbaz Saberi, the head of the Journalists’ Safety Committee in Kunduz.
The attack on the radio station in Kunduz has also sparked fear among the journalist community in Kabul.
Shahban joined a print media outlet in Kabul five months ago. She says that despite the media in Afghanistan reflecting the voice of the public, it faces threats.
“The government does not support us, even censorship takes place, people are not cooperating with the media, which is needed,” said Shabnam Noori, a journalist in Kabul.
“If the same situation prevails for journalists, I don’t think that the journalists will continue their work with seriousness and determination,” said Ali Sher Shaheer, a journalist.
“The Kunduz police are fully committed to defending national values and press freedom, those who try to harm national and religious values will be made accountable,” said Enamuddin Rahmani, a spokesman for the Kunduz police.
NAI, an organization supporting open media in Afghanistan, on Thursday said that at least ten radio stations have halted work in Afghanistan in less than six months due to security threats and the financial recession.
According to NAI, in 2020, 130 incidents of violence were reported against the journalists in Afghanistan, which shows a 10 percent increase compared to 2019.
Violence against journalists:
“Violence has increased against journalists, violence increased by 10 percent in 2020 compared to 2019,” said Mujib Khalwatgar, the head of NAI.
11 cases of murder, 16 cases of injuries, 13 cases of beating, 3 cases summoning, 3 attacks on media outlets, 5 cases of kidnapping, 23 cases of insults and 4 cases of assassination attempts were reported against the journalists in 2020.
“The government has the ability to provide security, but the problem is that there is no will in the government to use that ability,” said Mujib Khalwatgar, the head of NAI.
“If the Afghan govt, the international community, donor nations to Afghanistan and those countries which are facilitating peace process do not take serious action, the gains that Afghanistan has made in the areas of press freedom in the past 20 years will be eliminated,” said Sediqullah Tawhidi, a journalist.
“The security of all citizens, particularly journalists, has major significance to us,” said Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior.
Currently there are 190 audiovisual media outlets working in Afghanistan including 250 print media outlets.
Statistics by the media supporting organizations show that since 2014, 100 media outlets have stopped operation in Afghanistan.
'7 Journalists, 1 Media Worker Killed in 2020 in Afghanistan'
A report indicates that four anchors, three reporters and a cameraman have lost their lives in terrorist incidents in different parts of the country in 2020. This number was similar to 2019 but the level of threats to journalists and media workers has been unprecedentedly high in recent months and continues unabated.
The Afghanistan Journalists Center reports that in 2020 Daesh was responsible for killing two anchors, the Taliban was responsible for killing one reporter and a cameraman, and unknown armed men were responsible for killing two anchors.
According to the report, the perpetrators of some of the attacks have not been identified so far.
The report says that 112 incidents of violence against journalists happened in 2020 in the country. The report adds that 19 journalists and media workers were wounded last year.
Moreover, two more incidents, including the attack on former TOLOnews anchor Yama Siawash and the death of Ariana News anchor Fardin Amini in a mysterious incident, happened this past November.
Those who lost their lives in 2020 are:
Safar Mohammad Atal, an anchor of Samson Radio in Helmand;
Ahmad Khan Nawid, an anchor of Ghor Radio in Feroz oh city;
Mir Wahid Shah Amiri, Khorshid TV reporter in Kabul;
Shafiq Zabih, a cameraman at Khorshid TV;
Elyas Daee, a Radio Azadi reporter in Helmand;
Malala Maiwand, Eekas TV anchor in Nangarhar;
Rahmatullah Nekzad, a freelance reporter in Ghazni; and Tahir Khan, a driver at Enekas TV in Nangarhar.
On the first day of 2021, a reporter, Bismillah Adil Aimaq, was killed in an attack by unknown armed men in Ghor. He was head of a local radio station in the province.