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Afghan media respond to Taliban threats against TV channels

In this 3 February 2014 photo, Tolo TV staff work in a studio at the Tolo TV building in Kabul, Afghanistan
In this 3 February 2014 photo, Tolo TV staff work in a studio at the Tolo TV building in Kabul, Afghanistan

AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini

This statement was originally published on on 13 October 2015.

On 13 October 2015, the Afghan media collectively said they will not bow to the threats of the Taliban. A statement and video by the group issued the previous day, 12 October, targeted TOLO TV and 1TV and included death threats against all their staff.

In addition to the death threat, the Taliban threatened to destroy all facilities belonging to the two TV channels.

In an alarming statement published on the group's website on Monday 12 October, the Taliban said the two TV channels are legitimate targets and no employee, anchor, office, news team or reporter associated with either station is safe henceforth.

According to the Khama press the statement states, "Tolo TV and 1 TV channels are spearheads among these propaganda networks tasked with promoting the intellectual, cultural and information invasion of the infidels in Afghanistan. These networks with the complete backing of the Americans ridicule our religious and cultural norms, encourage obscenity and lewdness, inject the minds of youth with dangerous substances such as irreligiousness, immorality, violence, gambling, intermixing and profanity and specifically spread propaganda filled with hate and open enmity against Jihad and Mujahideen."

Addressing a press conference in Kabul, journalist Fahim Dashti, speaking on behalf of the Afghan media and media watchdog organizations, said the Taliban "has categorized TOLO TV and 1TV as their enemy and military targets and issued death threats against all [their] staff and threatened the two institutions and their facilities".

He added, "Afghan media, media activists, unions, media watchdog organizations and other media support institutions consider the threat not limited to the two named TV channels, but a threat to all of Afghanistan's media family and to the country's press freedom -- which is one of the key achievements of the past 14 years."

"We believe the Afghan people expect the Afghan media not to bow to such threats and to continue carrying out their mission of informing people based on journalism ethics."

He went on to say that media organizations are not one of the warring sides, but are instead civilian organizations. "Whenever the Taliban or any other group has complaints, they could adopt peaceful means [to express these] - because any attack on media and journalists is considered a war crime."

"We announce that in the event of such ongoing threats against any journalists or media organizations harmed by the Taliban or any other group, our first reaction will be to boycott their news coverage."

He said Afghan media once again emphasizes their commitment to democratic values and professional journalistic ethics, primarily ensuring impartiality and balance in their publications.

In conclusion he said: "We call on the Afghan government, national and international organizations to extend their maximum support to Afghan media and journalists, making their security and immunity a top priority."

Local radio stations targeted in bomb blasts in Eastern Nangarhar province

In a separate development, on 11 October the AFJC strongly condemned the bomb blasts that occurred at the offices of the Killid and Safa radio stations in eastern Nangarhar province.

The bombs which were fixed to the offices' entrance gates successively went off at about 7:30pm on Saturday, 10 October. There were no casualties but the stations incurred financial losses.

Hazrat Husain Mashreqiwal, a spokesperson for the province's Police headquarters, said police were investigating and it was not clear why the media outlets had been attacked.

The Islamic State group (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

In a statement, Safa Radio said "A person who introduced himself as an IS spokesperson claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call, saying that the group was not happy about our stories and our recent coverage of incidents."

The AFJC strongly condemned the attacks, urged the government to do more to protect journalists, and called on all parties in the conflict not to place hurdles in the path of the journalistic profession.

We expect the relevant authorities to immediately investigate and prosecute without any delay the perpetrators of this unacceptable attack.

The attacks are the fifth of its kind in the last two years; on 10 June a magnetic bomb attached to the Pajhwok Afghan News office's entrance gate went off in Jalalabad city, destroying office equipment and injuring four guests at the nearby Voice of America office. However, the perpetrators of these violent actions have not been identified and prosecuted.

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