The European Union (EU) in a statement has called on an end to targeted attacks on journalists and women in Afghanistan and says the violence in Afghanistan must stop.
The EU said that the attack on the three female workers in Nangarhar, in atrocious, planned assassinations deprives three young individuals of their future and their families, friends, and colleagues of loved ones.
“The Taliban remain responsible for the majority of civilian casualties and targeted assassinations, either directly or by opposing a ceasefire,” the EU says. “Targeting journalists must stop. Targeting women must stop. The violence in Afghanistan must stop.”
The European Union expects transparent and thorough investigations of all these attacks and assassinations, the statement said, reiterating the European Union’s resolve to support media and the freedom of speech in Afghanistan.
The statement says that following the killing of Malalai Maiwand in December, these attacks further illustrate the vulnerable and dangerous situation that media workers, especially women, face.
It also continues a worrying trend of systematic, targeted attacks and killings of journalists, human rights defenders, civil society representatives and civil servants, which cost the lives of 1,200 civilians in 2020, a 45% increase compared to 2019, the statement says.
A report by the UN released in mid-February shows that 11 human defenders and media workers were killed in targeted attacks in Afghanistan from 12 September 2020 when the peace negotiations started in Doha through to 31 January 2021.
The report said human rights and media space have contracted as a result, with many professionals exercising self-censorship in their work, quitting their jobs, and leaving their homes and communities with hopes it will improve their safety.
Many, including high-profile personalities, have fled the country, the report says, adding that the killings have had the broader impact across society of also diminishing expectations around efforts towards peace.
The report records a total of 65 human rights defenders and media professionals killed in the period from 1 January 2018 to 31 January 2021, 32 from the human rights sector and 33 from the media. Of these, 11 (five human rights defenders and six media) were killed in the four-month period from 1 October 2020 to 31 January 2021 alone.
The report notes that as they work to provide timely information to the population of Afghanistan on a range of issues (including violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law), human rights defenders, journalists and media workers are far too often exposed to threats, intimidation, harassment, surveillance, or arbitrary detention.
The report underlines that all actors have an important role to play in preventing such killings and intimidation, promoting accountability, and preventing impunity.
Investigations into killings must be independent, impartial, prompt, thorough, effective, credible and transparent, the report said.
The report suggests that the prosecution of suspected perpetrators should strictly follow due process and fair trial standards.
It also says that the use of charged rhetoric against the role of civil society and the media, threats or actions taken against whistleblowers, and the circulation of “target lists” all contribute to perpetuating the conditions in which civic space can only shrink further and exacerbate the unsettling effect on the population, especially human rights defenders, and media professionals.