International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists marked in Kabul and across Afghanistan
KABUL - On the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, UNAMA and the Afghan Journalist Safety Committee (AJSC) convened a Media Summit in Kabul in order to spotlight the impact of worsening violence against reporters in Afghanistan and to promote the adoption of a set of guidelines to improve the journalists’ safety.
More than a hundred journalists, senior government officials, including Second Vice-President Sarwar Danish, civil society and the international community representatives participated.
Attacks and crimes against journalists and media workers in Afghanistan are at intolerable levels said UNAMA’s head envoy, Tadamichi Yamamoto. “Some of the crimes are of the most egregious nature; the deliberate targeted murder of reporters in acts of terrorism,“ said Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. “The perpetrators of crimes should not believe they are above or beyond the law,” he said, adding that the culture of impunity must be challenged.
Second Vice-President Danish reiterated the government’s commitment to press freedom and the security of journalists. “The government has a deep belief in the media as an indispensable part of the political system,” said Danish who is the Chairperson of ‘The Joint Committee for the Safety and Security of Journalists” a body working to combat impunity. “The government is the primary provider of security and we are doing everything we can,” he said.
According to AJSC, the level of violence and number of threats against journalists and the media in Afghanistan continues to rise. “2018 marks the bloodiest period since AJSC began tracking incidents related to the safety of journalists in the country,” said AJSC head, Najib Sharifi. At least 14 journalists and other media workers were killed, including nine in a single attack in Kabul on 30 April.
International media watchdogs have listed Afghanistan as one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. Sharifi cites growing insecurity and instability as having further complicated the safety landscape alongside, “a persistent culture of impunity, and a failure to enforce laws and implement procedures and statutes on the safety of journalists.”
The situation remains dire especially for female reporters and in remote regions where there is a particular lack of protection. According to a 2017 report by AJSC, there were no female journalists and media workers in at least ten provinces including; Zabul, Uruzgan, Ghor, Panjsher, Paktika, Sar-pul, Logar, Nooristan, Laghman, and Kunar. The reduction of female journalists has effectively meant a decrease in coverage of women issues.
Globally, crimes against journalists are on the rise too with perpetrators rarely brought to Justice. More than 1,000 journalists were killed between 2006 and 2017, according to a UNESCO Report. In 2018 alone, at least 88 journalists have been killed. “This is outrageous. This should not become the new normal,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his video message, expressing outrage over the growing number of attacks and the culture of impunity. “When journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay the price,” stated Guterres.
In 2013, the UN General Assembly adopted 2nd November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The Resolution urged the Member States to implement specific measures countering the culture of impunity.
Today, UNESCO also launched a global campaign, #TruthNeverDies, in association with media partners around the world.