By-Anees Ur Rehman-Kabul
Journalists in Afghanistan work under extremely difficult circumstances and routinely face violence, threats, and intimidation that prevent them from carrying out their work. While many incidents go unreported. The first nine months of 2018 was the bloodiest reporting period for journalists and the media community in Afghanistan. Within these first six months, AJSC recorded 89 cases of violence and intimidation against journalists and media workers, eleven of which involved the killing of journalists. All of the journalists who were killed during this time were attacked directly: 9 were killed in a suicide attack in Kabul claimed by ISIS; 2 were shot dead in Kandahar and Khost provinces respectively and no group has taken responsibly for either killing. The intensity and scale of violence has been unprecedented during this period of 2018.
Life of journalists and journalism is on highly risk-Every day, weak and month the Afghan journalists facing threats and they are on peak target from different type of groups.
After Taliban regime, Media Institutions are also become the part new democracy and Now There are 75 TV channels, 185 are Radio stations and near to 1000 are newspapers, magazines and Online sites.
Despite all these attacks and other threats against journalists, the Afghan media is committed to providing information. The freedom of speech, freedom of press and information sharing policy is so weak and there is no any proper coordination between Media institutions and government and other groups.
In the war zone area there are certain limitations for Reporters but in Afghanistan they don’t know what should be cover and what should not be. Terrorist attack is a war crime and an organized attack on the Afghan media. The life of journalism is too short now in Afghanistan. No any guarantee of the journalism if these situation will continue. Hardly journalism will be survived for few years, If International community will not focus on it.
The Afghan media has called on the international agencies including the International Court of Justice and the United Nations Security Council to initiate a probe in these incidents in Afghanistan.
The Afghan Federation of Journalists (AFJ), Kabul Press Club (KPC), Afghan Journalist Safety Committee (AJSC), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) and Afghan's other media outlets have issued many joint statement and condemned the blasts on Journalists and Media institutions but they didn’t took any practical steps to stop it due to lack of professionalism and resources.
Journalists demanded so many times from the government to pay attention on journalist’s safety but they didn’t. Journalists are also the supporters of their families. Journalist’s salaries are also not encouraged and they are hardly to support their family. After dead of journalists his family don’t have any income source. Journalists don’t have any security insurance policy. On the behave of all Afghan journalists I am demanding from international community and the Afghanistan government to help victims' families as soon as possible.
On 5th September, around 6p.m suicide bomber explodes himself in west of Kabul and reports appeared to cover the news, but the second explosion targeted reporters again. Reporters have reported that two of their colleagues were martyred in the second explosion. Samim Faraz and Ramiz Ahmadi (Reporters of TOLO and Khurshid TV) were killed and meanwhile Khalid Nikzad, Hussian Manish, Siar and Aman Farhang (Reporters) were wounded.
In earlier month of this year at least nine journalists were killed in suicide attack in Shah Dark area of Kabul city. The deceased include Mahram Durani, Sabawoon Kakar and Abdullah Hananzai from Azadi Radio, TOLO's cameraperson Yar Mohammad Tokhi, 1TV journalists Ghazi Rasooli and Nowroz Ali Rajabi, AFP photographer Shah Marai, and Saleem Talash and Ali Saleemi from Mashal TV. Ahmad Shah was the BBC reporter in killed in Khost province at 4p.m in the main city.
Kabul Press club has demanded several times from the government to ensure the security of the journalist’s and media institutions. KPC said in one of his press release that mostly the media channels owners are living outside of the country and the heads or CEOs are sitting inside the office, the only reporters are victims of the war and the ate not talking security measurement for the reporters.
Besides the fatal incidents that result in the killing of journalists, AJSC has recorded 19 cases of humiliation and mistreatment, 14 instances of physical beatings, 11 instances of inflicting bodily injury, 28 instances of intimidation, 5 instances of detention and summoning, and 1 instance of illegal expulsion. The data from this period indicates a 22% increase relative to the first six months of 2017 in which AJSC had recorded 73 cases.
TOLO TV journalists targeted many times but still they are not serious for their security and of the reporter’s security. Even my friends told me that we have demanded security from the channels but the senior management team demanded resignations.
ISIS and the Taliban have been responsible for 37 incidents which forms the majority of cases of violence and intimidation. Individuals affiliated with the government and security forces come in at a close second and are responsible for 36 cases of violence and threats. Unidentified individuals come in at third with responsibility for just 14 cases. Owners and managers of media organizations are reported to be behind 2 cases of mistreating journalists and media workers. Of these incidences, 27 have taken place in one zone that covers Kabul and its northern provinces, 14 in the Southeast zone, 11 in the South zone, 6 in the Northeast zone, 4 in the North zone, 4 in the East zone, and 3 cases have been reported from the central zone.
For Afghan journalists there is no proper Health facility. Mostly when journalists become injured they don’t have special treatment form government side, as well as media channels and journalists federations also. No special budget has located from the Ministry of Information. They are totally depend on their own sources, resources and facilities.
A month back there were 8 active radios, 2 active TV stations and two active papers but now it is zero in Ghazni province.
Taliban either damaged media or caused media to be shut down. According to reports, the first action Taliban performed after attack on Ghazni on beginning hours on 10th August was destroying communication and media antennas. Then they burned Ghaznawiyan TV and Radio station and hanged out some letters on other media outlets warning then to not get active back.
This means the flow of information is stopped in Ghazni, the access to information is zero and freedom of expression is about to be zero. The increase in levels and intensity of violence against journalists has led to self-censorship among journalists, particularly in the provinces where there is significant presence or influence of the Taliban and other terrorist groups such as ISIS. Provinces such as Helmand, Kandahar, Ghazni and Nengrahar are among such places where journalists have begun to resort to self-censorship in an effort to protect themselves.
Based on AJSC’s analysis, the five main reasons behind the increase in violence against journalists are as follows: 1) the expansion of insecurity and instability throughout the country, 2) widespread and persistent impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of crime against journalists, 3) the popularity of propaganda in thecontext of the current war, which has brought the media to terrorist groups’ center of the attention, 4) the increasing ideological and political opposition of terrorist groups against the media because of the media’s role in reporting and raising awareness, and 5) the failure of the government to implement laws and regulations pertaining to the safety of journalists.
Various challenges including increasing threats, lack of access to information, and financial constraints faced by the media threaten the survival of the independent media sources and freedom of expression in a country where they are considered as one of the most important achievements.Media organizations are responsible for ensuring the safety of their employees, and therefore, must come up with effective policies and contingency plans in this regard. In addition, the media should be obliged to provide their reporters, particularly those assigned to cover terrorist incidents or battlefields, with the necessary safety equipment. This is not only an ethical obligation, but also it is a legal and administrative duty of media organizations.
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INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR THE PROTECTION AND FREEDOM OF JOURNALISTS