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Journalists still targeted by violence, threats and censorship in Afghanistan

Taliban threats against Afghan journalists have been increasing in recent months; in this photo, Taliban look on after handing over their weapons as part of a reconciliation and reintegration programme in Herat province, February 2013
Taliban threats against Afghan journalists have been increasing in recent months; in this photo, Taliban look on after handing over their weapons as part of a reconciliation and reintegration programme in Herat province, February 2013

REUTERS/Mohmmad Shoib

Reporters Without Borders condemns an increase in violence and threats against journalists in Afghanistan, as well as calls by government officials for the censorship of certain news media. There have been at least 30 cases of physical attacks and threats against journalists by local officials, policemen and Taliban since the start of the year, ten of which occurred in the past ten days.

"The government must redouble its efforts to protect journalists in response to this increase in threats and violence by the Taliban, enemies of freedom of information and other pressure groups," Reporters Without Borders said. "Its indifference to these violations of hard-won fundamental freedoms is serious endangering the public's right to be informed."

In the latest case, two men on a motorcycle opened fire on radio journalist Aliasghar Yaghobi's car in the western province of Herat on 22 April 2013, injuring him in the chest. Yaghobi, who works for Radio Mojdeh, was taken to a hospital, where doctors said his injuries were not life-threatening. The police are looking for the gunmen.

Around ten journalists staged a demonstration later the same day in solidarity with Yaghobi, while the Taliban issued a communiqué claiming responsibility for "the death of Aliasghar Yaghobi for his activities and for insulting Islam in his radio broadcasts."

Taliban threats against journalists have been increasing in recent months.

Ahmad Nadim Ghori, a well-known journalist based in the central province of Ghor who edits the monthly Sam, received several death threats from the Taliban on 17 April. Known for his criticism of social practices he regards as unacceptable, Ghori said his daughter's journalistic activities were "an additional reason for these threats."

Ebrahim Mohammadi, a journalist with privately-owned Radio Faryad and Afghanistan's National Radio in the western province of Farah, was also the target of a Taliban death threat on 13 April.

The Taliban are not however the only source of threats against journalists. Reporters Without Borders learned on 20 April that Tolo TV journalist Vali Arien was threatened in connection with a report about the deaths of three people at a private party and the fact that one of the suspects arrested was the son of a former army commander.

The detained suspect's relatives pressured Arien and his relatives in an attempt to get Arien to "do a report aimed at clearing him of any suspicion." Reporters Without Borders condemns the failure of the authorities in Parwan province (just to the north Kabul) to take any action in response to this threat.

Nasir Ahmad Sadegh, a journalist with privately-owned Tele 1, was physically attacked by policemen in the northeastern province of Takhar on 20 April, three days after policemen attacked and damaged the car of Abdulmalik Khorasani, the owner of Radio Kocheh, a station based in the neighbouring province of Badakhchan, when he was stopped at a checkpoint between Taloqan and Chok.

Khorasani had devoted several reports to street demonstrations against the local police chief a few days before the incident.

Unidentified individuals attacked and injured Nasir Ahmad Reha, a journalist with privately-owned Asia TV, in the city of Herat on 20 April. Sharif Assel and Aziz Ahmad, two journalists with privately-owned Taban Tele, were verbally attacked and insulted by police while doing a report on traffic jams and accidents in Herat on 17 April.

Official condemnation

For the second time in less than two months, President Hamid Karzai gave orders to the information and culture ministry on 22 April to prevent the dissemination of films and broadcasts that are "contrary to Islamic values and the values of Afghan society."

The directive was issued in response to a request by the Afghan Council of Ulemas (Muslim legal scholars).

"Although the Afghan authorities are the guarantors of the constitution, which is supposed to prohibit censorship, we are increasingly disturbed by their directives and by the accusations they make," Reporters Without Borders said. "These attacks are not compatible with the responsibilities of a democratic government.

"The Afghan Council of Ulemas is using its influence over President Karzai to impose repressive laws on the media and journalists on the pretext of combatting immorality and defending Islamic values.

"But, despite having had many opportunities, the council has never condemned threats and violence against the media and journalists, although such violence is completely incompatible with the Islamic values it claims to defend."

Reporters Without Borders added: "Contenting itself with censoring the media will not help the Afghan government to solve the country's many problems, including social problems."

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