Afghanistan on Wednesday observed National Journalists Day, as the level of violence against journalists and media workers has dramatically increased.
According to statistics, at least 11 journalists and media workers were killed in Afghanistan during various incidents and over 100 media workers and journalists lost their jobs for various reasons, in the last solar year.
Khairul Banat has worked in a private media outlet for the past three years, covering various topics.
She says that alongside threats and targeted killings, the journalist community in Afghanistan also faces a lack of access to information.
“There are problems at different levels and sources are not available to provide information to journalists,” she said.
“Today, the media in Afghanistan has unprecedented access to information and this is unique in the history of the country,” said Wahid Omar, an adviser to President Ashraf Ghani.
Statistics by journalist rights organizations indicate that eleven journalists and media workers have died in the country in the past solar year.
One of the victims was Malala Maiwand, a journalist at Enikaas TV in Jalalabad city.
“If the case of Malala Maiwand had been investigated from the beginning, these three journalists would have not been killed,” said Hemad, Malala’s brother, referring to a recent deadly attack on employees of Enikaas TV.
“1399 (2020) was not a good year for Afghan journalists, during this year, the government did not address its legal obligation toward the journalists,” said Mujib Khalwatgar, the head of NAI.
“Daesh is blamed for the killing of 7 journalists, the Taliban are blamed for killing three journalists and unknown armed are blamed for murdering 1 journalists,” said Ahmad Quraishi, the CEO of the Afghanistan Journalists Center.
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.
On March 2, 2021, three media workers were killed in Jalalabad.
Mursal Habibi, Saadia and Shahnaz, three female employees of Enikass TV, were killed by unidentified gunmen in two separate attacks in Nangarhar province.
On February 15, the UN mission in Afghanistan in a report said that at least 11 human rights defenders and media workers were killed in targeted attacks in Afghanistan from September 12, 2020, when the peace negotiations started in Doha, to January 31, 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 were killed in the period from January 1, 2018, to January 31, 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 October 1, 2020, to January 31, 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.