The new wave of journalist killings in the country is worrying. The government must take more serious action to curb this wave. Any shortcoming in this regard is unforgivable.
There has been a spate of assassinations of journalists and media activists, which began about a month and a half ago in Kabul. This wave has reached Nangarhar, Helmand and Ghazni, and if left unchecked, other provinces may also see assassinations and killings of journalists and media activists.
In the last month and a half, seven journalists and media activists in the country were killed or assassinated. Three of whom were killed under mysterious circumstances, and four were intentionally assassinated.
Fourteen journalists and media activists have been mysteriously, yet deliberately assassinated and killed since the beginning of this year. Seven of these assassinations and murders have taken place in the last month and a half alone.
This high rate of murders and assassinations of journalists is very shocking. Journalists have never been so threatened, except in cases where they have been the target of mass terrorist attacks.
Unfortunately, the government has not yet found the main thread linking these killings. ISIS and the Taliban, which previously claimed responsibility for killing journalists, have denied involvement over the past month and a half.
The question now is whether there is a new group trying to make its presence felt with these killings, and why this group has decided to kill journalists to assert its existence. Are there other countries involved in these killings and assassinations, with a desire to disrupt the peace? What is their intention and why should they pursue it by killing journalists? Unfortunately, all of these questions remain unanswered, as government investigations have not yet unraveled the mystery.
The new wave of journalist killings is very dangerous and must be taken seriously. The perpetrators of these killings must be identified. Any negligence in this regard can help expand the size of this wave.
Journalists and media outlets are not affiliated with either side in the war. They are the most neutral class in this society. Balance and fairness in reporting is one of the inviolable principles of a journalist. Therefore, targeting of media employees and activists is not allowed under any rule of engagement.
The government has a responsibility to identify the perpetrators of these assassinations and killings. It also needs to take action to prevent the continuation of this killing chain and devise a workable plan to curb it. Along with the Afghan government, the international community must not limit itself to being an observer in this situation, but must help the Afghan government to contain this new wave.
It will be difficult for journalists to work in the current environment of uncertainty. Personal safety measures taken by journalists and media activists cannot be enough to effectively protect them. Therefore, ensuring the security of journalists and media activists requires a larger program that only the government can implement.
The current method of journalist killings is different from the past. In the past, journalists were mostly targeted in groups. But in the last month and a half, the method that has been followed has been individual assassination. Therefore, the means of controlling this phenomenon must also be redefined.
The attack on journalists is an attack on freedom of expression, which is one of the government’s most important achievements in the last two decades. The people of Afghanistan look at the media as their capital, and thus of fundamental necessity. Protecting the media and caring for journalists should be a priority in government programs. The Afghan media community is seriously waiting for the government to take care of journalists as soldiers in the field of information delivery. But this cannot be achieved with slogans alone. The government should think of actionable plans and take action as soon as possible to protect freedom of expression and protect the lives of journalists. If there is a delay in this regard, it may have irreparable consequences. This is a serious warning which must be taken seriously.