Last week was deadly for media workers in Afghanistan, with two killed by a roadside bomb and two killed by Covid-19, which continues to spread among the country’s journalists. Media workers must be protected from both violence and the pandemic, says a concerned Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
“We call for a thorough investigation so that those responsible for this attack are identified, located and brought to justice,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk. “The government’s disengagement from the fight against violence against journalists and impunity for press freedom’s predators must end at once.”
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for bombings and attacks that have killed a total of 15 journalists and media workers in Afghanistan since 2015, and some branches of the Taliban sometimes carry out attacks against the media in Islamic State’s name.
“One of the consequences of the peace accord that the United States signed with the Taliban on 29 February has been to reduce the number of bombings targeting the media, compared with previous years. But violence against journalists has not declined,” RSF said.
It added that RSF is aware of at least 27 cases of threats, attacks and other forms of aggressive behaviour towards media personnel since 1 January.
In the meantime, according to the information gathered by RSF, at least 70 Afghan journalists have been infected by Covid-19 since the end of March, when the virus was officially declared to have reached the country. This means that Afghanistan’s journalists have been hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than any other media community in the world.
Soliman Yousefi, a driver with privately-owned Ariana News, and Nassir Ahamad Sapi, a reporter for the national RTA TV channel in Nangarhar province, died this week from Covid-19. Meanwhile, nearly 50 journalists in the Kabul region who are infected with the virus say they are not being treated properly, either for lack of money or lack of medical supplies.
RSF’s Reza Moini added: “Afghanistan’s journalists are exposed to a range of evils, and practicing their profession is becoming more and more dangerous. Such a dramatic increase in the number falling victim to bombings or afflicted by disease is unacceptable. The government, media and union organizations are all partly responsible and must do everything possible to protect journalists.”
In a press release on 2 April, RSF published recommendations for protecting journalists against the spread of Covid-19.
Afghanistan is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries and territories in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.