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Threats against the Journalists on the Rise

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As Afghans mourn the death of their country’s vice president, a Swedish journalist was killed in Kabul by militants in downtown Kabul. According to the reports, a less known group named the “Mahaz-e Fadayi Taliban”, which is a hard-liner branch of the Taliban, claimed the attack on the foreign national in Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood. In reaction to the attack, the main media supporting organization condemned the attack, expressing concerns over the sharp rise of violence against journalists in recent months. The attack which occurred in a crowded in a busy street in Kabul once again highlighted the threats being faced by the journalists particularly Western journalists who work in Afghanistan.

In reaction to the killing, Afghan NAI group, a media advocacy group, condemned the attack expressing concerns over the trend of violence against the journalists. According to NAI, three journalists have been killed only in two last months which is marking a sharp rise in fatal cases of violence against journalists. In addition to that, the journalists are increasingly facing violent incidents from the government officials, warlords and other powerful figures across the country. Shortly after the killing of the Swedish journalist in Kabul, an Afghan journalist in northern Balkh province was harshly beaten up by unknown men, bearing serious injuries from the attack. In that case, most possibly government officials in the province were thought to be involved.

These incidents suggest a sharp rise of violence against the reporters in Afghanistan at a time when the election date is looming. It suggests that there is an increasing approach to violence not only by the militants but also government officials and security forces. Given the vitality of the free and independent media in the upcoming elections, the rise in violence against the journalists is a worrisome sign that the situation for the journalists would be much shaky. The high rate of violence against the reporters involved in electoral affairs is not a promising sign for the role of the media in the upcoming elections.

In both the upcoming presidential elections and the process of security transfer, a robust media plays a crucial role. As the US-led forces are going to complete their withdrawal this year, the free media in Afghanistan would inevitably face more limitations both in safety of the journalists and freedom of expressions. As now we are going to the next month’s election, the media is expected to play a key role in making the process more transparent and fair.

Therefore, the government of Afghanistan must ensure that the media operates with no fear and intimidations and protect the journalists from the violence organized by militant groups or other sorts of violence from government and security officials. For this, Afghan security agencies need to take particular measures in place to provide security for the journalists and protect freedom of speech.

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