AFGHANISTAN. Herat: Targeted killings of journalists are on the rise in Afghanistan. According to data compiled by the Transcontinental Times, around six journalists were killed in the past two months. All of them were killed in car bomb blasts or were attacked by unknown armed men. From January 2020, 11 Afghan journalists and media staff have been killed, making Afghanistan one of the deadliest countries for the country’s rapidly growing domestic media.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported that Afghanistan was positioned among the five deadliest countries in the world. According to the report, around 50 journalists were killed worldwide this year.
Targetted killings across the country
Since the start of the Intra-Afghan peace talks, the targeted killings of journalists have seen a sudden surge in Afghanistan. Out of the six journalists killed in the past two months, most of the attacks were not claimed by any group. The journalists were killed by unknown armed men or magnetic bombs attached to their vehicles.
In a statement, RSF said, ”All of the journalists killed in connection with their work in 2020, 84% were knowingly targeted and deliberately murdered, as compared to 63% in 2019. Some were murdered in a particularly barbaric manner.”
In November, Yama Siavash, a former TOLO News anchor (November 7), and Elyas Dayee Radio Free Liberty reporter (November 12), were killed by bombs that were attached to their vehicles. During the month of December, Malalai Maiwand, Enikas TV anchor (December 10), and Rahmatullah Nekzad, freelance journalist for Al-Jazeera and Associated Press (December 21) were shot dead by unknown armed men.
According to the Radio Free Liberty Bureau office in Kabul, Dayee’s death has created a gap in Helmand media province. Many people have fled the province out of fear. Helmand is a critical battlefield between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack on Dayee yet. But, the Afghan government had claimed that it had arrested a Taliban member who had killed Dayee.
The Islamic State group had previously claimed responsibility for the killings of Siavash and Maiwand while the Taliban denied any involvement in the killings of the journalists.
“The killing of journalists and media staffs is not among our targets,” Zabiullah Mujahid, the group’s spokesman told Washington Post.
Fardin Amini, Ariana News anchor, who lost his life a day after Maiwand’s death, and Rafi Sadiqi, former Khurshid TV Director were killed in suspicious attacks for which the details are yet to be provided.
Meanwhile, the Afghanistan Interior Ministry has expressed two different narrations of Amini’s death. At first, the ministry had said that Amini committed suicide by slitting his own throat. However, recently in the President’s cabinet session, it said that Amini was killed.
Journalists killed for covering sensitive stories
“RSF tallied 50 cases of journalists killed in connection with their work from 1 January to 15 December 2020, a number similar to 2019 (when 53 journalists were killed), although fewer journalists have been in the field this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” RSF reported.
“The world’s violence continues to be visited upon journalists”, RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
He further added, “Some may think that journalists are just the victims of the risks of their profession, but journalists are increasingly targeted when they investigate or cover sensitive subjects.”
Most of the journalists interviewed by the Transcontinental Times for this report are scared as they believe that they will be the next victim. “My family is more worried about my safety than myself. I am afraid to be the next”, Hassan Ahmadi a reporter from Herat said.
“I am personally a bit worried about my coverage of the stories. Sometimes my family tells me don’t make yourself popular or you’ll be recognized by them sooner.”