AFGHANISTAN. Herat: “Local prayer holders stormed the Radio of Zohra in Kunduz province of Afghanistan, on Friday, damaging the equipment and building of the mass media station,” said Mohsen Ahmadi, director of Radio Zohra. The mob was incited by the Imam of Mosque of Firuzko and Qasanai, who asserted that the music airing by the radio had been mixed with the sounding system of the mosque.
On Saturday, Afghan journalists said that the attack was ‘pre-planned’. The journalists have also warned that the freedom of the press is under threat in Afghanistan. Along with this, the Afghan government is also facing criticism for its reluctance to protect the journalist community.
NAI, an organization supporting open media in Afghanistan, said that at least ten radio stations have stopped their activities in Afghanistan in less than six months due to security threats and financial recession.
The wave of targeted killings on journalists
For the past months, Afghanistan media has lost many Journalists in targeted killings. The decision of shutting down the radio stations came amid an increase in violence against journalists, high-profile figures, and civil activists across Afghanistan.
According to NAI, in 2020, 130 violent incident cases were recorded against the journalists in Afghanistan, which indicates a 10 percent increase compared to 2019.
“The government can provide security, but the problem is that there is no will in the government to use that ability,” Mujib Khalwatgar, the head of NAI said in a TOLO News TV interview.
“Violence against journalists has increased by 10 percent in 2020 as compared to 2019,” he added. Around 11 cases of murder, 16 cases of injuries, 13 cases of beating, three cases of summoning, three attacks on media outlets, five cases of kidnapping, 23 cases of insults, and four cases of assassination attempts were reported against the journalists in 2020.
Earlier in December, Masoud Andarabi, Afghanistan’s interior minister told a media staff, “Media outlets editors who can’t purchase weapons to protect themselves should shut down their media company.”
Peace talks and violence against journalists
Khalwatgar referred to the ranging violence against the civil and social activists, human rights activists, and journalists amid the peace talks, that the international community and in particular the United States should pressure on the Taliban to prevent the targeted killings.
“There are some groups who want to silence the Journalists to distract the public from the deals made on the negotiation tables in Doha,” he said.
“When there are no journalists to cover the peace talks, the political elites will try to negotiate away everything and make deals.”
The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) said, “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.”
“If the Afghan government, the international community, donor nations to Afghanistan and those countries which are facilitating peace process do not take serious action, the achievements that Afghanistan has made in the press freedom in the past 20 years will be eliminated,” said Sediqullah Tawhidi, a journalist from Kabul.
US ambassador to Afghanistan also reacted to the recent violence against freedom of the Press in a tweet, “I have said it before: we must preserve #PressFreedom in Afghanistan as one of the most important gains of the past 19 years. Media workers here demonstrate remarkable courage in ensuring transparency & accountability. We hear you & we support you. #DoNotTargetJournalists”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had also claimed that Afghanistan was along the five deadliest countries in 2020.
The Afghanistan Journalists Center reports that 112 incidents of violence against journalists happened in 2020 in the country. The report also added that 19 journalists and media workers were wounded last year.