Journalists in Afghanistan face threats, intimidation and violence for simply doing their jobs, Amnesty International said in a statement on Wednesday on World Press Freedom Day as it honoured the memory of the 10 Afghan journalists killed in attacks this week.
On Monday, two suicide bombers killed almost 30 people in the double bombing in Shash Darak area of Kabul city. Nine journalists were also killed in the incident.
The journalists had been targeted after rushing to the scene of the first explosion. Officials said the second suicide bomber had shown a press pass and posed as a journalist before detonating his explosives.
On the same day, Ahmad Shah, a BBC Pashto reporter, was shot dead in Khost province. He was shot by unknown armed men who were riding a motorcycle.
Amnesty International said Monday’s attack marked the deadliest day for journalists since the conflict in Afghanistan began in 2001.
“Afghanistan’s journalists are among the bravest in the world. Working in some of the most difficult conditions, they have faced threats, intimidation and violence for simply doing their jobs. At a time when many have sadly turned their attentions away from the country, and the work of a journalist means constantly putting your life at risk, they have continued to confront injustice and give voice to victims,” said Omar Waraich, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for South Asia.
“The second attacker deliberately sought out journalists to kill after the first bomber had drawn them to the scene. Mere moments after killing one group of civilians they targeted another, committing multiple war crimes on the same spot,” he said.
According to the Afghanistan Journalists Safety Committee, at least 80 media workers have lost their lives while working in the country since 2001.
The 10 journalists included Shah Marai, the legendary AFP photographer, who had powerfully captured the tragic aftermath of several attacks in Afghanistan until he was killed in one of them. He was the father of six children, the youngest a daughter who was born just a fortnight ago.
Yar Mohammad Tokhi worked for TOLOnews – a fiercely independent Afghan television station that has mourned colleagues before, including after a 2016 bombing that killed seven staff members and wounded 26 others. When Yar Mohammad Tokhi's loved ones laid him to rest, they discovered on his person a blood-stained wedding band. He was due to be married next month, according to the statement.
Mahram Durani, a producer and presenter with Salam Watandar radio,was one of Afghanistan’s rising generation of women journalists. Ebadullah Hananzai was also a radio journalist, working for Radio Azadi. Ghazi Rasooli was a reporter with 1TV, and Nowroz Ali Rajabi was a cameraman for the same media organization. Saleem Talash was a reporter and Ali Saleemi was a cameraman with Mashal TV. Sabawoon Kakar was a journalist with Radio Azadi.
Monday’s killings represent the latest in a series of unremitting attacks on civilians in Afghanistan. A week earlier, 60 people were killed as they waited at a voter registration centre in Kabul.
For each of the past four years, more than 10,000 people have been killed or injured in attacks in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. These attacks have taken place all across the country, with the capital Kabul being the hardest hit.
They have included brazen war crimes, such as when the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack that killed more than 100 people and wounded at least 235 when an ambulance laden with explosives struck the busy Kabul shopping area known as Chicken Street on 25 January 2018.
Civilians have also been victims of attacks by government forces. On 2 April, an Afghan military strike killed at least 70 people and wounded 30 others when it struck a mosque in the northern province of Kunduz.
At the same time, Afghans continue to be forcibly returned, violating the principle of non-refoulement: under international law, people cannot be sent back to a country where are at risk of serious human rights violations, Amnesty International said.
European countries continue to force thousands of Afghans back to danger. Last week, Turkey boasted of its target of 10,000 deportations to Afghanistan, in a matter of a few weeks, read their statement.
“There is no one who can credibly claim that Afghanistan is safe. And yet we see European, Turkish, Iranian and Pakistani governments persist with the forcible returns of Afghans, turning their backs on the country’s suffering while putting people in harm’s way,” said Omar Waraich.