Afghan Government Vows to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists

Afghan Government Vows to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists

Nov 25, 2014

Kabul: Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan’s National Unity Government vowed to put an end to impunity for crimes against journalists and media workers in Afghanistan.

In a statement issued on the occasion of national campaign to end impunity, Abdullah Abdullah renewed commitment for supporting freedom of expression and media activities, saying that the National Unity Government remains committed to protect press freedom.

On Nov 22, Dr. Abdullah met senior members from Afghanistan’s Journalists Center (AFJC) and some other media support organizations, assuring them of his government’s commitment to take essential actions to end the issue of impunity.

CEO’s spokesperson Asif Ashna read out his statement during a gathering held on this occasion in Kabul on Nov 23. Abdullah promised that the dossiers of media related victims will be thoroughly investigated.

“By investigating and dealing with these dossiers and prosecuting the perpetrators, we intend to end impunity, so that those who committed crimes against journalists and media workers get prosecuted and journalists feel safe and avoid self-censorship.” Abdullah added.

He further noted that the National Unity Government of Afghanistan continues to support press freedom and media activity as a significant achievement and is committed to preserve it.

Ahmad Quraishi, Executive Director of Afghanistan’s Journalists Center told a news conference that 46 journalists, writers or media workers have lost their lives over the last two decades in Afghanistan. However, the perpetrators of most of these cases have not been prosecuted.

He added that 29 of them have been directly targeted and murdered while performing their professional duties, whereas 17 others lost lives in explosions or of armed conflicts.

“19 of the murdered journalists and media workers were Afghan citizens. During this period, two more Afghan journalists were killed in Pakistan.” Quraishi noted.

Director of Afghanistan’s Journalists Center said that 12 of these journalists have been killed by the criminal groups, six by the Taliban, five by local residents or family members, three by unknown individuals, one by US troops, one by British ISAF troops and one by Afghan National Police.

Quraishi believes that impunity is a festering sore on freedom of press and every such attempt distorts reality by creating a climate of fear and self-censorship. Promoting the safety of journalists and fighting impunity require prevention mechanisms and actions to address some of the root causes of violence against journalists and of impunity.

Statistics gathered by AFJC testify that 93% of perpetrators of these murder cases have not been prosecuted. Perpetrators of murder cases of State-run National TV reporter Sayed Hamid Noori and Rahman Qol, Editor-in-Chief of Andkhoi magazine have been prosecuted. Recently, primary courts have issued verdicts against the murderers of Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus and former ISAF reporter Palwasha Tukhi. However, others continue to enjoy impunity.

These findings show that over the last 20 years, 17 more journalists have been killed in improvised device explosions or armed attacks, where they were not directly targeted.

These incidents have been attributed to the Taliban as they were behind the explosions and attacks, or have claimed responsibilities for them. However, in most cases they have enjoyed impunity.

During this year’s campaign activities against impunity organized by Afghanistan’s Journalists Center (AFJC) and supported by IFEX, many gatherings and protesting rallies were organized in Kabul, Kunduz, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Lashkargah, Kandahar, Khost, Ghazni, Jalalabad and Charikar cities. Journalists, media workers, civil society activists and press freedom advocates attended these events.

Participants of this national campaign called on the Afghan Government to fulfill its promises in taking actions to end impunity for crimes against journalists and not allow it turning to a culture of impunity as well as further precautionary measures for the safety of journalists.