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Australian journalist injured in suicide bomb attack, hospitalised

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

Dangers Rising for Journalists in Afghanistan

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is increasingly concerned about the dangers for journalists and media workers in Afghanistan, after another journalist was injured in a suicide bomb blast on April 29.

Eighteen people were reported killed in the blast in Khogyani district, Nangarhar province, close to the border with Pakistan, according to news reports.

Among the 32 people reported injured is Paul Rafael, an Australian journalist working on assignment for the Smithsonian Magazine. Rafael was evacuated to a US military hospital.

Photographer Steve Dupont, also of Australia and working for the Smithsonian, escaped injury.

The Taliban is reported to have claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred as officials and villagers met in an opium-growing area to prepare for a drug-eradication operation.

The district chief commander was killed, while officials and police were injured, reports the Afghan Independent Journalists' Association (AIJA), an IFJ associate.

The attack comes as the IFJ releases its annual South Asia Press Freedom Report for 2007-08, which details the rising risks for media personnel in Afghanistan from May 2007 to April 2008.

Data gathered for the report by the AIJA note that four media workers were killed in Afghanistan during the year. Three killings were targeted attacks on local journalists. In the fourth case, Norwegian reporter Carsten Thomassen was killed in a battle in Kabul on January 14.

The extent of the danger is further underlined by 38 media personnel being injured, threatened or intimidated in both targeted and indiscriminate attacks, while 20 media workers were detained, charged or abducted by security forces or the Taliban, according to the report.

Among these cases is that of Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh, 23, who was sentenced to death in January on charges of blasphemy. He is accused of downloading an article from the internet regarding women's rights under Islam.

In addition, eight incidents were reported in which media outlets were directly attacked or publications were prevented from being distributed.

"The latest injury of a journalist in Afghanistan underscores the extreme dangers confronting local and foreign media personnel reporting on the country's conflict," said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

"It is a stark reminder ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3 of the dark realities confronting journalists who work in dangerous and volatile locations."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

For further information the Thomassen case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/89883

For further information on the Kambakhsh case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/92091

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