Statement by Tadamichi Yamamoto on Taliban threats against media in Afghanistan
KABUL - Freedom of the press is critical. Civilians should never be deliberately targeted with violence. These are two fundamental principles.
This week the Taliban publicly threatened to turn media outlets into military targets. I unequivocally condemn this threat and call for it to be rescinded, as words must never be met with violence. The only acceptable challenge to words is to advance a better argument.
International humanitarian law, which applies to all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, prohibits attacks against civilians at any time and in any place. Media workers are civilians, and their rights must be protected, especially their fundamental right to operate in an environment free from any threat, intimidation or undue pressure by any outside entity, including governments.
In the context of repeated threats by the Taliban, I am reminded that press freedom in Afghanistan is earned at an unbearable cost. Many journalists have been killed in Afghanistan in calculated attacks. We cannot but feel indignation at these terrible acts.
The United Nations recognizes that Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work, and we remain steadfast in collaborating with our national and international partners to protect journalists and to fight against impunity. Let us respect our collective obligations – regardless of who threatens or subjects journalists to intimidation or violence – to take practical steps to address those forces that menace the media.
As Afghanistan’s journalists continue to carry out their duties in the context of the Taliban’s reprehensible threats – threats that delegitimize the Taliban and deprive them of any claim to represent the people of Afghanistan – I congratulate all media workers for their progress toward a free press, which has been hailed as one of the country’s most notable accomplishments.
Many journalists have lost their lives in Afghanistan while pursuing their noble objectives. Many others have suffered harassment, intimidation and beatings while carrying out their duties.
The United Nations stands in solidarity with all media workers in Afghanistan. We will continue to support the Afghan government, consistent with its international human rights obligations, to implement measures that improve journalist safety and that foster an open media where no voice is silenced through fear.
Tadamichi Yamamoto is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).