HERAT: Alarm over attacks and threats against journalists

16 Jun 2013

HERAT: Alarm over attacks and threats against journalists

HERAT - Human rights groups in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat have raised alarm over increasing number of attacks and threats against local journalists in recent months, calling on authorities to protect them.

A media advocacy group called ‘Journalism Support Centre’ documented five cases of violence against journalists in the month of April alone.

“The source of violence is confrontation between conservative groups and the journalists over the broadcast of investigative news and programmes,” said the director of the Centre, Khalil Ahmad Amiri, without elaborating who these “conservative” groups are.

On April 22, two motorcyclists opened fire on a radio journalist, Aliasghar Yaqubi, in Herat, injuring him in the chest. Mr. Yaqubi, who works for Radio Mojdeh, was later treated in the Herat Regional Hospital.

Mr. Yaqubi said he did not know why he was attacked, while acknowledging that his programmes might have upset some local “powerbrokers and conservatives.”

On the same day, another journalist Atefa Qafuri working for Yak TV (‘Channel One’) was “insulted and threatened” by a government officer.

Other incidents include journalists being thrashed while reporting on the plight of Afghan refugees in Iran.

While denouncing such attacks on journalists, Aria Raoufian, the Herat provincial director of the Department of Information and Culture (DoIC), said some of the attacks stem from journalists lacking knowledge on “cultural values.”

Herat police department has acknowledged individual involvement of its personnel in some incidents of violence against journalists. The Herat police spokesperson, Abdel Rauf Ahmadi, said DoIC and media support groups are working together to provide training for police personnel as well as journalists.

“These will include training courses for police units on how to deal with and behave with journalists and courses for journalists on how to understand police performance and sensitivities so that unwanted violence against journalists in which police is involved would be eliminated,” said Mr. Ahmadi.

In the past decade, Afghanistan’s western region – just like other region of the country – has seen a rise in the number of media outlets. According to DoIC, there was only one media outlet – the state-controlled Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) – in Herat in 2001 and now there are 13 local television channels, 18 radio stations and more than 15 active publications. About 200 journalists work in these outlets.

By UNAMA Herat