Put an End to the Killing and Imprisonment of Journalists

Two days ago, four local journalists were arrested in Kandahar by the government on suspicion of “propaganda for the enemy.” The reporters had traveled to the Spinboldak district to cover the Taliban-held area. The Ministry of Interior claimed on July 23 that the Taliban had detained 400 civilians after occupying the district, and that 100 of them had been shot dead. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, the Independent Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Attorney General have emphasized the need to address this claim.

Reuters reported that Danish Siddiqi, a Reuters reporter and photographer, was killed in a government-Taliban battle in Spinboldak. On July 23, it was reported that Nazar Mohammad, popularly known as “Khashe Jwan”, had been shot dead by the Taliban in Kandahar. He was a well-known police soldier and comedian who was detained from his home by the Taliban at night.

This is all shocking news that has been broadcast from Kandahar province in the last two weeks or so. The Taliban claimed sole responsibility for the shooting. The group says it shot the comedian for insulting the “Islamic Emirate”.

Allegations of the capture of 400 civilians and the shooting of 100 of them have not yet been substantiated. This claim definitely needs to be investigated and followed up.

According to the Association of Free Journalists of Afghanistan, Bismillah Watandost, Qudrat Sultani, Mohib Obaidi and Sanaullah Siam had gone to Spinboldak to investigate the Taliban’s allegations of “genocide”. They were detained by national security forces on their way back from the district in Kandahar. The Interior Ministry said yesterday that the journalists were being investigated.

The gap between the claims of the Ministry of Interior and the Association of Free Journalists of Afghanistan is wide. The interior ministry says the journalists were detained on suspicion of “propaganda for the enemy.” The Free Afghanistan Journalists Association, however, says the reporters went to Spinboldak to investigate allegations of “genocide.” This difference in claims has obscured the mission of these reporters and their purpose and motivation for traveling to Spinboldek.

But what is being proven by the killing and imprisonment of journalists in Kandahar is that the work of journalism and information across the country has become more difficult than in the past. The government detains journalists simply on suspicion of “propaganda for the enemy.” The Taliban, in turn, does not pay attention to the principle of protecting the lives of journalists. The killing of Danish Siddiqi in the group’s attack on Spinboldek is a clear example of this negligence. The group has already assassinated many journalists or targeted them with suicide bombings.

Society needs reliable, impartial and timely information from war-torn areas. Society is not content with information from the government and the Taliban about alleged crimes on the battlefield. Thus, the need of the society for accurate, reliable and impartial information needs to be quenched by free and independent media. This is possible, however, when the parties to the war respect the immunity of journalists and the public’s access to information.

Free media and independent journalists, speakers and agents are neither side of the war. It is wrong to expect the media and journalists to take sides in the war. The media and journalists are committed only to the principles of journalism and what is and is true. Let journalists be busy with their professional work and do not force them to do things that are against the principles.

The government, as a responsible institution, must respect the law. If he is suspicious of the media or journalism, he should take legal action. According to Article 27 of the Constitution, the detention of any citizen of the country must be done within the framework of the law. Also, Article 44 of the Media Law has introduced the Commission for Investigation of Media Complaints and Violations as the first authority to investigate media violations. Unfortunately, in the detention of four local journalists in Kandahar, these articles of the applicable law have been ignored.

The Taliban, however, has repeatedly killed journalists. This group, despite inspiring respect for freedom of expression, does not tolerate dissent. The shooting of a comedian solely on charges of “insulting the Islamic Emirate” is a clear example of this claim.

The international community must not remain silent in the face of the killing and imprisonment of journalists. Not only the Taliban but also the government has repeatedly sought to prevent the free flow of information in the country. Recently, high-ranking government officials pressured media officials to work for the benefit of the government. Certainly, behind this demand is the program to restrict the free activity of the media. In such a situation, it is appropriate for international institutions and countries that support democracy and human rights to thwart the efforts of the government and the Taliban to restrict the activities of the media. Otherwise, many crimes against humanity will be hidden in Afghanistan from lies and propaganda, and people will be deprived of access to information.