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Local radio station manager decapitated in Urgun, Paktika

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is saddened to learn of the murder of Sadim Khan Bhadrzai, the manager of Mehman-Melma, a local radio station in Urgun, in the southeastern province of Paktika. His decapitated body was found on 22 February 2012, after he was kidnapped the previous evening.

"We offer our condolences to Bhadrzai's family and friends, and to his colleagues in the Association of Independent Afghan Journalists, of which he was a member," Reporters Without Borders said. "We urge the authorities to shed light on the circumstances of this appalling murder. The perpetrators and instigators must be arrested and punished."

Launched last year, the radio station quickly became one of the most popular in the region. Deputy manager Yaghob Manzor said, "Sadim Khan Bhadrzai received a phone call at around 8 p.m. and left his house. His body was found the next day." The police said they had begun an investigation "to identify the perpetrators of this savage decapitation."

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that the Taliban had any role in the murder, although decapitation is one of their preferred methods of execution-style murder. Classified by Reporters Without Borders as "Enemies of Press Freedom" and responsible for the deaths of a growing number of civilians and journalists, the Taliban are firmly entrenched in the south and east of the country, which are news and information "black holes."

Several journalists have meanwhile been injured by police or protesters during demonstrations that are taking place in several cities in protest against the US military for "insulting of the Koran." The victims include an Agence France-Presse photographer who sustained a non-life threatening neck injury on 22 February from a rubber bullet.

Reporters Without Borders understands that public security has to be the priority for the police during such serious unrest, but the public's right to news and information is fundamental and must be respected. The use of violence and other illegal actions by the police against journalists go unpunished and are one of the reasons for the increase in physical danger for journalists in Afghanistan.
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