IFJ Concerned About Media Freedom In Afghanistan

Kabul: With more reports of assassinations of journalists pouring in from Afghanistan with the latest victim being former television journalist Nemat Rawan, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA), stated that they were deeply concerned about journalist safety and media freedom in Afghanistan

Rawan, who was a communications specialist with the ministry of finance, was killed by gunmen in a targeted assassination in Kandahar city on May 6. While no one is yet to take responsibility for the attack, the Taliban have been blamed for the recent wave of attacks on journalists in Afghanistan. The day before Rawan’s death, a Taliban spokesman said media workers who undertake “bias reporting” would be “held responsible”.

On the other hand, the chief of Afghan intelligence agency Ahmad Zia Saraj had allegedly also in a closed-door parliament hearing said that some journalists and analysts work in favor of the Taliban and that his agency would not tolerate those people. However, the NDS chief has denied all claims to such reports by the media.

“Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) condemns the killing of media workers and journalists and urges the Afghan intelligence agencies to investigate all murder cases of journalists in particular the killing of Rawan. The agencies must find out if his killing was related to his journalistic works or otherwise”, said the AIJA in a statement.

The IFJ said, “The political tensions in Afghanistan and the imminent withdrawal of US troops in September 2021 do not bode well for media workers who remain vulnerable to attack for not toeing the line of government or the Taliban. Critical efforts are urgently needed to protect freedom of expression and independent journalism in Afghanistan.”

The targeting and killing of journalists have escalated in the country since peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban began last year. Another former journalist, Yama Siawash, was killed along with two others in a targeted explosion in Makrorayan-e-Char area of Kabul on November 7. There were 10 documented killings of journalists in Afghanistan between May 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021, as per a IFJ South Asia Press Freedom Report, Truth in a Time of Contagion: The Viral Frontline.

Meanwhile, of the violence, the most affected group remains women of the country. In fact, Afghan women representatives discussed the latest political and security developments with their US counterparts, including the peace talks, and their concerns about the consequences of the withdrawal of the Resolute Support forces.

The meeting was attended by Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs Hasina Safi; Chairwoman of the House Committee on Women and Human Rights Nahid Farid; Member of Parliament Shinkai Karukhil, and Zohra Ahmadzai, Deputy Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation and Advisor to the First Lady.

On the US side, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith and US Senators Lindsey Graham, Young Kim, Steve Chabot, Andy Kim, and Michael Waltz attended the dialogue.

Participants emphasized on the role of women in peace talks and Afghanistan’s future. Afghan parliamentarians termed the withdrawal of forces and continued cooperation with Afghanistan’s security forces the best opportunity to defend Afghanistan independently.

They termed the escalation of violence, the continuation of targeted killings, the Taliban’s continued links with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations a clear violation of the Doha Agreement, and the group’s unwillingness to seek a political solution. Women parliamentarians called on their US counterparts to cooperate on persuading the Taliban and their regional supporters to accept an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the country.

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