With increase in stress levels, recent assassinations are an attack on the current generation and values of the republic

The increase in targeted attacks and threats has increased psychological pressure on civil society activists and the media. Meanwhile, a number of journalists who were under security threat in the provinces have been transferred to a safe place in the capital so they can be provided security. The decision follows a wave of threats against journalists and civil society activists. The Presidential Palace says that the attack on media activists and civil society is, in fact, an attack on a whole generation and the values of the republic. The second vice president also described the assassination and intimidation of journalists and civil society activists as “shocking” and called on the Interior Ministry to set up a special unit to monitor journalists, civil society activists, human rights activists and women’s rights activists, and to work consistently to help those harmed and vulnerable. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, for its part, has referred to the increase in attacks on journalists, as a path leading to increased self-censorship by journalists, affecting the free circulation of information. According to the commission, the country’s media community has come under psychological pressure following the increase in threats. The first vice president, however, announced that a plan to double the Kabul police force had been prepared. Thus, the number of police in Kabul will be more than 20,000.

More than five journalists and four civil society activists were killed by unidentified gunmen in the past two months. The continuation of this situation has raised concerns about civil society activists and the media. Najibullah Sharifi, chair of the Committee to Protect Afghan Journalists, told 8 Subh on Monday, December 28, that journalists and the media community have been facing a wave of security threats in recent days. According to him, these threats have increased in Kabul, especially in the provinces, which has led media outlets to transfer a number of threatened journalists from the provinces to Kabul. Although the chair of the Committee to Protect Journalists did not provide further details about the reporters, he said they had been transferred to secured locations.

However, Najibullah Sharifi expressed concern about the continuation of this situation, saying that the continuation of security threats has led the media to self-censor and restrict the flow of information. He expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s performance, and especially the security agencies in eliminating these threats, and said, “The security services have not fulfilled their responsibilities properly. We are not satisfied. We expected the government to take urgent action, but they have been indifferent.” However, he noted that the agency is working with various agencies to address security threats in order to come up with an appropriate solution to prevent attacks.

Mujib Khalwatgar, chief executive of the NAI Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan also expressed concern about the growing threats against journalists and media activists. He told 8 Subh that in recent days, civil society activists, especially journalists, have faced a wave of security threats. Mr. Khalwatgar stated that some journalists had been summoned to Kabul due to security threats. According to him, the government and security agencies, in meetings with institutions that support journalists and media officials, have pledged to take serious measures to address the threats. The chief executive noted that these problems could be somewhat resolved if government agencies complied with their commitments. Mr. Khalwatgar also stressed that media officials and managers also have a responsibility to take the necessary measures to protect the lives of journalists and their employees.

The recent assassinations are an attack on the values of the republic

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani also called the recent attacks on journalists and human rights activists an attack on a generation, Islamic values and collective conscience, and said that the aim of these attacks was to destroy stability, trust, and to dishearten the youth. Mr. Ghani said that these attacks may provoke anger and the desire for revenge among citizens, but this feeling should be directed purposefully so that it does not result in instability. According to the President, the feeling anger and desire for revenge must lead to a strengthening of will. President Ghani instructed the security services to investigate the recent assassination cases and the First Vice President to speed up his security efforts in this regard. He said that all strata of society needed to be united and, in addition to the high level of trust in the police, the judiciary must rise to the occasion in order to speed up the process and let the people see the will of the government.

Meanwhile, Sarwar Danish, the second vice president and chair of the Joint Media and Government Committee, described the assassination of certain media outlets, civil society activists and human rights activists as “shocking”. He instructed the Interior Ministry to set up a special unit in its organization to provide security for journalists, civil society activists, human rights activists and women’s activists, and to work for the ongoing care of the vulnerable and harmed. Mr. Danish expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of investigations into the murders of journalists, civil society and human rights activists by the intelligence services, and called for speeding up the process and sharing its details with the public. Mr. Danish also instructed the Ministry of Interior and the National Directorate of Security to prepare and provide a single guideline for the security of the media and journalists. The second vice president stressed that the government was fully committed to supporting the freedom of expression, media freedom, and supporting human rights activists and civil society. Sarwar Danish also said that he was following up on the transfer of threatened journalists from the provinces to Kabul and was working with them towards this end.

Attacks on journalists result in increased psychological pressure

Meanwhile, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has issued a statement saying that the targeted assassinations of journalists in the past few months have had a negative impact on the reporting process across the country. According to the agency, some journalists, especially women journalists, have left their jobs in the provinces due to security threats. The AIHRC also stated that journalists’ access to districts has become difficult. The commission added: “Journalists cannot easily move around in a number of cities. Some journalists and media outlets in the provinces have been threatened and have faced negligence when reporting these threats to government agencies.”

The AIHRC said in a statement that the country’s journalist community has been subjected to severe psychological pressure in recent months and that journalists are concerned that their working and living spaces will be more limited. It criticized the government’s lack of efforts in this regard, saying that the information provided to the media about preventing the cycle of journalist killings, prosecuting suspects, and bringing justice to the media was not satisfactory. However, in a meeting with reporters, Shahrzad Akbar, head of the AIHRC, warned that some journalists could leave the country if their lives were not protected by the government. The commission has expressed concern about the consequences of the current situation, saying that the increase in targeted attacks has increased self-censorship among the media community, and that the continuation of this situation could have dire consequences, especially for journalists.

Reporters worried about the situation

A number of journalists also find the continuation of this situation and the government’s silence questionable. Zulfiqar Mohammadi, a journalist, said the continued targeted attacks on media workers had created a wave of panic and that the trend was casting a dark shadow over journalists’ work. According to Mohammadi, most journalists start to self-censor after the assassination of their colleagues. Criticizing the government, he said that although the country’s media community has been increasingly targeted in recent months, the government and security agencies have remained silent and have not taken any serious action. The reporter said that if the situation continued like this, the people’s trust, and especially that of journalists, in the government and security institutions would decrease. He called on the security services to ensure the safety of journalists so that the information cycle did not suffer a blockage.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior has promised to take serious measures to ensure the safety of journalists. Interior Minister Mohammad Masood Andarabi, in a meeting with Sarwar Danish, the second vice president, said that the Ministry of Interior had appointed special teams to investigate the murder of journalists and prevent potential threats against journalists, civil activists and human rights activists, and have ordered the provincial police commanders to ensure regular and serious cooperation and communication with the media, civil society and human rights organizations. The First Vice President also confirmed that the plan to double the Kabul police force has been prepared by the “6:30AM meeting/Security Pact”, regular official meeting convened by the first vice president to discuss security related issues. According to Mr. Saleh, a comparative assessment shows that even compared to places in a state of relative stability and calm, Kabul has the lowest number of police in proportion to its population in the world, especially in developing countries. However, he added that the increase in the number of Kabul police officers will be done with “patience and focus” and that people who did not meet the necessary conditions and criteria would be prevented from joining the police ranks.

It is worth mentioning that about 10,000 police officers are currently on duty to ensure the security of Kabul city. Earlier, the Interior Ministry said that part of the police had been sent to the battlefield and that efforts were being made to begin the process of returning the police to their original duties. In the last two months, there have been several bloody attacks on journalists and civil society activists. Concerns in this area have increased after the assassinations of Yama Siawash, Elias Daei, Malala Maiwand, Rahmatullah Nikzad, Yosuf Rashid and Frishta Kohistani. The US Embassy in Kabul announced earlier this year that threats against civil society activists were likely to increase. However, according to members of the government’s negotiating team, the recent assassinations are directly linked to the peace process, and some regional intelligence agencies are trying to disrupt the process.