Surge in violence against Afghan journalists

Violence against Afghan journalists has increased 40% in the first six months of 2014 compared to same period last year, says the IMS-founded Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee (AJSC)

A total of 63 cases of violence and five killings were recorded between January and June, says the Afghan safety committee in its most recent report on attacks against the country’s media (PDF).

The killings include the murder of former New York Times reporter Noor Ahmad Noori and two foreign journalists, Nils Horner from Sweden and the German photojournalist Anja Niedringhaus.

The increased threat to international journalists will mean less coverage of Afghanistan’s issues on a global level, says AJSC.

“A decrease in news coverage of Afghanistan will contribute to isolation of the country from international community’s agenda.”

The increase in violence follows a turbulent six months with a tense atmosphere around the country’s April presidential election and the subsequent run-off election in June.

Lacking interesting from the Afghan government in following up on cases of violence and murders also contributes to the escalation of violence, says AJSC. Nearly two-thirds of the violence originates from the government and security forces. The Taliban accounts for 12% of the violence.

Despite the dangerous environment and a profound lack of access to information, the Afghan media were still able to cover the April and June elections in a comprehensive and largely professional manner, says AJSC.

Hopes that the presidential candidates would attempt to preserve and expand Afghanistan’s achievements in the areas of media and freedom of expression have not been met. This is a major cause of concern as the country moves ahead with its run-off elections, said AJSC’s Director Najib Sharifi:

“None of the presidential candidates have managed to present any plans on how they want to contribute to furthering freedom of expression or media in the country. It is very concerning for the future of freedom of speech in Afghanistan.”

The Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee works with local Afghan media outlets and media support organisations like IMS to improve the protection of media workers and the right to freedom of expression. This includes most recently bringing together managers of media outlets to get them to adopt a conflict sensitive approach when covering electoral matters to not stir up ethnic hatred.

The Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee is a locally managed safety committee established by IMS to assist journalists in danger and support families of victimised journalists. The safety committee is the first of its kind established in Afghanistan with its inclusion of press unions, media representatives and civil society organisations. The committee is in charge of a 24-hour hotline, a safety support emergency fund and advocacy work on safety in 32 out of 34 provinces.

The full report on violence against Afghan journalists is available for download here (PDF).