Violations Against Journalists Increase 21% in Afghanistan

 Violations Against Journalists Increase 21% in Afghanistan

17 March 2020

KABUL:  Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) has monitored a 21% increase in cases of violence and threats against reporters and media workers in 1398 Solar Year (21 March 2019- 20 March 2020) in Afghanistan.

AFJC released its annual report about the safety and security of journalists on the occasion of National Journalist Day (March 17), which has documented 116 cases of violence, threats, insults and harassments against journalists and media workers over the past 12 months.

Speaking at a ceremony making the National Journalist’s Day in Kabul, AFJC Executive Director Ahmad Quraishi said that in comparison to the  92-recorded cases of last solar year (1397), the above 116 cases show a significant decrease in death of journalists. However, cases of violence, threats and intimidations have considerably increased.  

He noted that five journalists and media workers (three reporters, a technician and security guard) have lost their lives over the past 12 months. They include Sakhi Baluch, a technician of RTA in Qalat city of Zabul; Abdul Raouf Aimalzai, Shamshad TV and Radio Network’s security guard in Kabul; Nadir Shah Sahebzada, reporter of Gardez Voice radio station in Paktia; Abdul Hameed Hotaki, reporter of Hewad radio in Kandahar; and Safar Mohammad Atal, presenter of radio Samoon in Helmand.

According to Quraishi, at least 22 other journalists and media workers sustained injuries in terroristic and crime incidents.

AJFC’s findings show that two murder cases including a reporter and a media worker are attributed to the Taliban. Three other murders of two reporters and one media worker were carried our by unknown armed men. In addition, Taliban are responsible for 14 cases of injuries, six cases by unknown armed men and the remaining two cases by Daesh (Islamic State).

“Despite there has been a sharp fall in deaths of journalists compared to last year, the loss of five reporters and media workers as well as an increase in cases of violence and threats continue to demonstrate clear violation to journalist’s lives and the dangerous nature of journalistic work in Afghanistan.” AFJC Executive Director added.

He further noted that the recorded cases include 28 incidents of threats, 32 cases of offences and insults, 11 kidnapping incidents, 8 cases of detentions, 6 cases of physical harassments and beatings, and 4 cases of intimidations.

In 28 incidents of threats, government officials were involved in eight incidents followed by unknown gunmen in six cases, the Taliban group in five cases, local powerbrokers in five incidents and police forces in four cases. From the 32 cases of offences and insults, police forces were responsible for 21 cases, presidential special protection guards for four cases, powerbrokers for four cases and government officials for three cases.

Taliban were involved in all of the 11 kidnapping incidents, where they kept the reporters for one or two days in custody. From the six cases of beatings, national army personnel were involved in three cases, presidential security guards in at least one case, government officials in one case and unknown gunmen in the remaining one case.

Over the past 12 months, there were three direct attacks by unknown gunmen and one by the Taliban against journalists. AFJC also recorded at least eight cases of short-term detention by the National Directorate of Security (NDS).

AFJC’s findings also show that from the overall 116 incidents of violence and threats against journalists and media workers, 53 were carried out by government officials and forces, 33 cases by the Taliban, 19 by unknown armed men, nine cases by powerbrokers and two incidents by Daesh.

In addition to cases of violence and threats, AFJC in numerous meetings with journalists from eight regions, found out that access to information has been drastically limited. Several media outlets stopped operation mostly due to the financial challenges. The consequences of these circumstances have caused self-censorship and undermined professionalism.

AFJC calls on all sides involved in Afghanistan’s conflict to respect the rights of journalists and media workers and help to provide them a safe working environment. AFJC extends its call on the government leadership to take extra measure in addressing media’s concerns and implement the decisions made by the joint committee of government and media in regards to investigation of cases of violence and threats as well as prosecution of perpetrators.

As intra-Afghan talks are expected to start in the coming weeks, AFJC reiterated that the achievements of Afghan media gained over the last 19 years should be a top priority in the any peace talks with the Taliban. Peace will only be sustainable if it is built on full respect for human rights in particular freedom expression and freedom of media.  

During the event, marking the National Journalist’s Day, AFJC honored several Afghan journalists for their distinguished work and reports. Afghanistan’s Journalist of the Year award was presented to Liaqat Layeq, reporter of Etilaatroz daily newspaper for his investigative report on the expenditure of contingency code 91 of the budget. Additionally, 10 other journalists were recognized for their outstanding reports.