The findings of PAYK investigative journalism center show that annually, on average, the Afghan journalism community has lost four of its members in the past 16 years in Afghanistan. But the cases of the murders have not been addressed.
This study shows that the Taliban are responsible for 30 murders, unknown persons are responsible for 29 murders, and the government is responsible for three murders of journalists and media employees. Also, five other journalists have died as a result of traffic accidents.
PAYK findings from the last official meeting of the Joint Committee for Afghanistan journalists and media security and safety shows that during this period of time, even one mysterious murder case of journalists have not been addressed.
PAYK Investigative Journalism Center
Kabul – May 2017
- In the past 16 years, only two cases of murder of journalists have been finalized in Afghanistan.
- Four other cases are on the desk of the Joint Committee for Journalists and media safety and security and 23 other cases are still remaining untouched.
- Inattention and lack of government capacity and increasing violence are the most important factors in slow follow up of journalists’ murder cases in Afghanistan.
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The statistics of journalists’ murders
Based on figures obtained from local media institutions from 2001 to the end of 2016, 68 national and international journalists and media workers have lost their lives in various terroristic, criminal, traffic and unknown incidents. This means that Afghan journalists Community, annually on average, has lost at least four of its members.
Among these, there are 16 foreign journalists, 10 national media staff and 42 national reporters (journalists). According to the National Union of Afghan Journalists, the reporters, announcers, presenters, photographers, cameramen, editors and program directors of TV, Radio and print media are referred as journalists or reporters and others who work in the media are called the media employees.
The Taliban by carrying out 30 murders (the source of these statistics should be mentioned) of national and international journalists and media staff in the past 16 years, has the first place on this list. Among these, 10 people were killed in suicide attacks, 11 in bomb explosions and roadside mines, and 9 others were killed in targeted attacks. Members of the Joint Committee say handling these cases are impossible because of the lack of contacts with the Taliban.
After the Taliban, unidentified gunmen killed 29 journalists, with a slight difference come in second place in the list. According to Media support institutions in the country, all these cases can be prosecuted because of uncertainty about the causes of death. NAI Media Watch believes that many of these cases are linked to journalism and the main responsible people have not been identified by responsible and judicial organizations.
Among this list of 16 years, only one case is reported “unknown” due to lack of clarity about the location and status of the incident. This is the case of the death of Alistair McLeod New Zealand journalist who was killed mysteriously by unknown people on 28 August 2002 in the east of Kabul.
Government and foreign forces are also responsible for the killing of three journalists in separate military incidents. Sultan Monadi was killed on 3 October 2015 as a result of air strikes by foreign forces in Aliabad district of Kunduz province and Zabihullah Pashtoonnyar was killed on 3 April 2014 in Kunduz provincial capital in a similar incident. Also, Anja Niedringhaus a German reporter for Associated Press was killed on third April 2014 by a police officer in Khost province.
Five Afghan journalists lost their lives in the bloody traffic accidents on the highways of the country. Four journalists lost their lives in a passenger bus crash on Kabul-Kandahar highway. The time and location of the accident have not been determined. Also, Yama Ahmad Sherzad, the BBC reporter lost his life in an accident on 1 November 2016, while driving on the highway Doshi-Pul-e Khumri in Baghlan province.
Fahim Dashti, executive director of National Union of Journalists and a member the joint committee for security and the safety of journalists and media in Afghanistan, in an interview with PAYK said that in the past 16 years, nearly 700 cases of violence against journalists and employees of media in Afghanistan have been recorded, but only 68 cases were murder and rest of them were in the forms of violence such as threats, battery, arrest, injury, fire, and insult and after the review of the joint committee, last year, this number reduced to more than 400 cases of violence. It means that only cases related to past ten years are known to be prosecuted and other cases that are associated with the Taliban and before ten years are not included in the work of the joint committee.
Killings related to journalism
Journalists and Afghan media support institutions do not have exact figures of the mysterious murders of journalists who work in the media or related to it. PAYK findings from statistics and information collected from the Afghan Journalists National Union and the General Attorney Office show that at least 29 journalists have been killed by unidentified gunmen in the past 16 years, but the perpetrators of 23 cases have not been identified yet.
Mr. Mujeeb Khelwatgar the Chief Executive of NAI said that in many of these cases, the government instead of support and cooperation wants to disappear the clue that can take us to the person who has committed these murders.
Mr. Khelwatgar doubts about some of these murder cases occurred in one and a half decade and give this example.
“The murder of Abdul Samad Rohani a BBC journalist in Helmand is one of the most complicated cases where he was killed by unidentified men while preparing an investigative report on drugs. But despite follow-up of local and central authorities, no clue was found.”
Brother of Samad Rohani in an interview with PAYK said the murder of his brother was relevant to his work with media and also complained about the neglect of local officials.
Yaqoob Sharafat reporter of a local radio and television who was shot dead at a 50-meter distance from the Zabul Province Headquarter by unidentified men last year is another mysterious case. Mr. Khelwatgar believes that this murder is also relevant to his work in media, as three days prior to his death he had said that he has been threatened by Zabul province officials in a videotape.
Zakia Zaki, head of Radio Solh in Jabul-saraj is another example of these mysterious murders that are directly related to journalism. According to Mr. Khelwatgar, Ms. Zaki was murdered mysteriously in her bed at night time, but despite the arrest and release of five people, the main killer was not identified.
Similarly, Shekiba Sanga Amaj Shamshad TV announcer who was killed by unidentified gunmen and after arrest and release of her father, it was called honor killing; while NAI Media Watch says her murder is relevant to her journalist work.
Palwasha Tokhi, Zabihullah Pashtoonyar, Zubair Khaksar and some others are killed by unidentified gunmen in different regions of the country in one and a half decade and most of these cases have not been identified for unknown reasons or ignorance of government officials. The cases of journalists’ murders by the Taliban are not prosecuted due to the lack of contact with these groups.
Inquiry and non- inquiry of the cases
A recent report by General Attorney to the Security Council of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and a copy of which reached to PAYK expresses the investigation and finalizing 9 cases of violence including 6 cases of murder of journalists. However, from all these, the punishment of five people to death and twenty years imprisonment in connection with the case of Palwasha Tokhi reporter of Radio Bayan in Balkh and Sayed Hamed Noori RTA journalist in Kabul have been reported, but inquiry of any of these cases by the judicial organs is not acceptable to NAI and other media support organizations.
The Committee for journalists’ safety and security and the Afghan National Union of Journalists are also not satisfied with the final performance of intelligence and judicial agencies are doubted the final results of 9 cases of violence and killing of journalists by judicial and law enforcement institutions.
Murder cases of Palwasha Tokhi journalist of Radio Bayan in Balkh and Sayed Hamid Noori journalist of National Radio and Television in Kabul, despite the final decision of the Committee for journalists and media Security and the Safety; that is, being relevant to journalism, are not acceptable to media support organizations. In connection with the two cases, two men were sentenced to death and three others were sentenced from 12 to 20 years imprisonment.
Zabihullah Pashtoonyar reporter of Radio Kaihan was killed as a result of air strikes by US forces on 3 October 2015 in MSF hospital in the capital of Kunduz province. Local authorities in response to the Joint Committee wrote that the case had not yet investigated.
Shamshad TV journalist Shekeba Sanga was shot and killed by unknown gunmen on 10th May 2007 in the fifth district in Kabul. After passing five years of this event, although the primary court of Kabul city announced the decision in absentia, two people including Shekeba’s father were sentenced to 16 years imprisonment, but the police have not yet managed to arrest these people.
Zubair Khaksar journalist of National Radio and Television was killed by unidentified gunmen on 29 January 2016 in Nangarhar. Three people were arrested by police in connection with the case in eastern Nangarhar province, but the family of khaksar said that the arrested people are innocent.
|“The case of Sultan Mohammad Monadi the interpreter and Stephen Zell reporter of New York Times on 5 September 2009 who had gone to the area of Jangal-e Rahmat Bai of Aliabad district to shoot the burned tankers by ISAF air bombardment and then they were captured by Taliban and later Mr. Stephen was rescued and the Afghan journalist was killed by mentioned groups. Because the area was unsafe no investigation was carried out”|
The case of the Sultan Muhammad Monai’s murder which is included in the report of Attorney General; not only faced with a strong protest of media support organizations but also caused serious anger of Monadi’s family. According to Mr. Khelwatgar the murder of Monadi is related to journalism because it happened when reporting on ISAF air strikes on oil tankers in Kunduz province, he was killed mysteriously and Stefan Zell his British colleague was rescued by Special Forces. Now the Joint Committee for media and journalists security and safety in their last official meeting reported the case as follows:
In the report which is presented to Security Council of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan by Attorney General Office on 18 December 2016, despite the results of the investigation by assigned delegation of the Ministry of Interior with a quote from Stephen, contrary to these, Taliban have been mentioned as murders of this guy. While Yar Mohammad Yarmand former head of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of Interior who also served as a harbinger delegation investigating the case, confirms that based on the findings of his research team, Sultan Monadi was shot dead by British Special Forces.
However, Jamshid Rasooli spokesman for the Attorney General Office in an interview with PAYK has promised that will send more details of the case to PAYK email address, but after a month, PAYK did not receive any email and no one answered to PAYK phone calls.
The report has also aroused the anger of Monadi’s family. Osman Hamdard brother and caretaker of Monadi’s family, by providing copies of the results of the Board of the Ministry of Interior says to PAYK reporter about several years of tiredness and fruitless litigation “We just wanted justice and still want justice.”
More than seven years has passed for asking justice, but according to Mr. Khelwatgar, in addition to sending an open letter to the embassy and the State Department of Great Britain, no clue has been found. The PAYK investigative journalism center also was not able to contact the embassy by attempting many phone calls and sending an e-mail to the address of the Embassy of Great Britain in Kabul.
Tawab Ghorzang spokesman for the Security Council and a member of Joint Committee for security and the safety of journalists and media in Afghanistan, in a telephone conversation with PAYK said about the progress progress of Monadi’s case “the if there is a protest against final decision of the cases of violence against journalists it should be registered and it will come to the attention of the judicial institutions of the country which have the membership of the Joint Committee.”
The findings of PAYK from the data by Media Support Organizations and judicial institutions of the country, not only shows an increase in violence (including murder) against journalists, but also proves that in addition to the commitment and establishment of the Joint Committee of the government and the media aimed at addressing violence against Afghan journalists, the media support agencies who have the membership of the committee, still believe that some government officials are reluctant and not valuing freedom of speech in the country, which is the greatest cause of failure in the way of addressing cases of violence against journalists. Although statistics from official sources indicate that by creating this joint committee for security and safety of journalists and media in Afghanistan, headed by second Vice President of the country, more than 400 cases of violence against journalists, including (murder, injury, arrest, battery, abduct, humiliate and insult) are submitted to judicial institutes (Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Attorney General Office, and Supreme Court) by media support agencies. From these cases, only six cases of murder and three cases of violence were investigated by the government and the rest of it are remaining unsettled.
The Security Council and the Attorney General Office who are the government members of the Joint Committee for security and safety of journalists and media in Afghanistan speak about adherence to the government’s commitment to support the media and freedom of expression in the country and ensure that except for the extent and density of cases for several years, there’s no excuse to pursue and investigate cases of violence against journalists.
While some members of the Joint Committee, in a reaction to cynicism and reluctance of some government officials to cases of violence against journalists, have warned that if government continue to its negligence and obstructions they will resign from their membership in this committee; but a number of other members of the media groups in the country are hoping that with the active participation and honest work of the Joint Committee none of the cases of violence against journalists will be left without care.
Though media support organizations in the country spoke about being hopeful, recently the global network of 108 organizations defending freedom of expression in the world under the name “IFEX” has also sent an open letter to the leaders of the National Unity Government, the Ministry of Information and Culture and representatives of the Afghan Government in UNESCO, and has asked the Afghan government to work on the status of cases of murder of journalists in the country and make it clear.