Media express concern over journalist safety, freedom of expression

28 Jan 2016

Media express concern over journalist safety, freedom of expression

KABUL - Afghan senior editors and media professionals are critically concerned about the future of freedom of expression in Afghanistan due to heightened intimidation and attacks directed at media workers.

At a consultative meeting with senior editors and media professionals in Kabul yesterday, Nicholas Haysom, the UN envoy for Afghanistan, heard directly from media professionals about their concerns relating to media freedom.

Mr. Haysom reinforced that it was necessary for all steps to be taken to safeguard freedom of expression and journalists against those who seek to impose their views through violence. He reiterated the support of the world body for a strong and independent Afghan media.

Last week, a suicide attack against media workers in Kabul killed eight and injured 24 civilians, many of them from the media sector. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast that targeted a minibus transporting staff of the Tolo media organization. In October the Taliban issued a specific threat against Tolo and 1TV.

A recent report by the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee reported 39 cases of threat and violence against journalists during the first half of 2015, including the death of one journalist.

“Attacks on media workers and intimidation and threat statements by the insurgents groups, particularly by Taliban, have obscured the atmosphere of independent reporting in Afghanistan,” said Siddiqullah Tawhidi, the Director of Nai-Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan.

“The future of the media sector, freedom of expression and safety of journalists are facing great challenges in Afghanistan,” he added, noting that a number of Afghan journalists have fled the country.

Najib Sharifi, who heads the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee, said that he believed the attack on workers of Tolo was the just the beginning and that attacks would unfortunately continue.

“The future of freedom of expression and safety of media organizations and their workers depends on media organizations acting with solidarity and unity, and with the support of the Afghan Government and international community,” said Mr. Sharifi.

International humanitarian law, which applies to all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, prohibits attacks against civilians at any time and in any place.