‘Nobody is safe’: New killings deepen Afghan journalists’ fears

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It was Mursal Wahidi’s dream job, landed proper after ending her research in journalism – working at a neighborhood TV station in her home metropolis in jap Afghanistan.

This week, the 21-year-old left the workplace for the day and walked home. She solely made it a number of steps. A gunman shot her point-blank within the head and chest. She died immediately.

At about the identical time, two of her co-workers, 21-year-old Sadia Sadat and 20-year-old Shahnaz Raufi, left work collectively, leaping into an auto-rickshaw.

When they obtained out near their houses, gunmen in one other rickshaw that had been following them opened hearth, killing each girls and wounding two passers-by.

Afghan judges, attorneys and activists have additionally been singled out in a wave of assassinations for the reason that United States signed a peace cope with the Taliban a 12 months in the past.

The killings have escalated since peace talks between the Afghan authorities and the Taliban started in Qatar final 12 months, although the negotiations have stalled.

‘Nobody is safe’

On Wednesday, funerals had been held for the three girls, who labored for Enikass Radio and TV within the metropolis of Jalalabad. They dubbed fashionable and infrequently melodramatic dramas from Turkey and India into Afghanistan’s native languages of Dari and Pashtu.

Friends and household gathered on the funerals in Jalalabad, the place males took turns digging contemporary graves with a shovel as others pleaded for an finish to the deaths.

Rohan Sadat described his sister Sadia as “shy but active” who was additionally enthusiastic about preventing for ladies’s rights and had deliberate to attend college and examine legislation.

“We have buried her with all her hopes here,” Sadat instructed the AFP information company.

Another colleague at Enikass TV who spoke on situation of anonymity mentioned the station was reeling from the murders, saying the three victims had been like “family”.

“Three innocent girls were shot dead in the daylight in the middle of the city. Nobody is safe any more,” mentioned the colleague.

In December, Malala Maiwand, one other feminine worker working for Enikass TV, was murdered in Jalalabad in comparable circumstances.

Wahidi’s father mentioned he had implored her to give up her job after Maiwand’s killing however she refused, as she beloved her work fiercely.

“Journalism was her life’s dream, she studied and was living her dream,” Wahidullah Khogyani instructed The Associated Press (AP) information company. He mentioned he didn’t assume that she had acquired any threats – but when she did, “she was hiding it”.

Afghan officers claimed they arrested the killer of the three, figuring out him as Qari Baser and insisting he was a Taliban. Police didn’t clarify how the person may have carried out two near-simultaneous assaults to date aside.

Dangerous nation for journalists

The coordinated killings of the three girls had been the most recent in a bloody marketing campaign towards journalists in Afghanistan, a rustic that was already thought-about probably the most harmful locations on the earth to be a journalist.

Violence towards journalists was up 26 % in 2020 in contrast with 2019, in keeping with the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee, which recorded 132 threats and acts of violence towards journalists and media employees final 12 months.

In simply the final six months, 15 journalists and media employees have been killed in a collection of deliberate killings.

The killings have unfold fear amongst Afghanistan’s journalist neighborhood, prompting some to cease working or flee or self-censor to keep away from angering the armed fighters or authorities officers, who’ve threatened journalists reporting on killings of civilians by authorities forces.

The fear is even worse as a result of the perpetrators stay mysterious, an indication of the nation’s fracturing safety scenario at the same time as peace negotiations attempt to acquire a foothold.

Zabiullah Doorandish, who works for a neighborhood TV channel in Kabul, mentioned the false info flying round, together with from the federal government, solely fuels hypothesis. Some “start to think maybe there are groups inside the government that are targeting media,” he mentioned.

Doorandish, who usually covers corruption, violence and human rights violations, was hit by a roadside bomb assault in May. He survived, however two colleagues had been killed. Now he’s afraid each time he steps out of the home, he mentioned.

He mentioned he will get dying threats, some claiming to be from the Taliban, however others unknown. The threats, he mentioned, prompted him to place apart for now a documentary he was making ready concerning the killings of journalists.

“Whenever I cover some incident, an explosion or attack, I am filled with fear and panic,” mentioned Doorandish, a father of two.

Nationwide assaults on media

Afghanistan has greater than 2,000 formally registered media shops and assaults towards the media have been countrywide. Last month in northern Afghanistan, the previous head of a journalist association was killed and in western Ghor province, a journalist and his household had been killed.

Earlier this 12 months, an offended mob ransacked Radio Zohra, a neighborhood radio station in northern Afghanistan, after ab imam incited the attackers, claiming the station’s music interfered with prayers on the mosque. The station’s gear was broken and it needed to halt its broadcasting.

One feminine TV presenter instructed the AP she fled her home after receiving dying threats by cellphone from an individual claiming to be from the Taliban.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid mentioned the caller had no connection to the group and the Taliban had no difficulty with the work she was doing.

“As a mother, I get depressed thinking about my children’s future. What will happen to them if something happens to me?” mentioned the presenter. She spoke on the situation she not be named or her hometown or present location recognized to guard her safety.

She additionally criticised the federal government, saying her pleas for assist have gone unanswered. They simply inform her to watch out.

“The government doesn’t do anything about these targeted killings,” she mentioned. “They don’t care.”

Mohammad Naweed, a journalist who’s now in hiding, mentioned no aspect will be trusted. “All sides in the war are seeking their own interests.”

Killings ‘linked to political landscape’

Latif Mahmood, the director of the federal government media and knowledge centre, mentioned the federal government is working for the security of journalists and media employees and insisted officers present correct info. He blamed the Taliban for a lot of the assaults.

“Our investigations show that armed opponents of the government are behind the target killings, we have identified them, suspects are arrested, and they have confessed, their base and aim are totally clear,” he mentioned.

The head of the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee, Najeeb Sharifi, mentioned he anticipated killings to proceed till a closing peace settlement is reached.

“The targeted killing of journalists is very much linked to the larger political landscape in Afghanistan.”

The ISIL (ISIS) group has claimed duty for among the assaults, together with Tuesday’s slaying of the three girls journalists.

Hours after the killings, the ISIL mentioned it killed the ladies as a result of they labored for one of many “media stations loyal to the apostate Afghan government”.

But many different assaults have gone unclaimed. The authorities blames most on the Taliban, attempting to undermine the group’s help among the many Afghans.

Taliban spokesman Mujahid denied it had any position within the killings of the three girls. The group blamed the federal government for the slayings, saying it needs to undermine the peace course of.

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