Afghans carry the body of a woman who was killed by gunmen in the city of Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Sadaqat Ghorzang)

Female journalists’ assassination condemned

The assassination of three female media workers in Jalalabad, the capital city of the eastern Nangarhar province, was widely condemned by Afghan officials, media activists, and diplomatic missions in Kabul.

Late yesterday, March 02, three female media workers were shot dead by unknown gunmen in two separate incidents. The two journalists, who were working with Enikass TV, were shot dead simultaneously while a third female media worker was gunned down in a separate incident

Three months earlier, in December 2020, gunmen killed Malalai Maiwand, a female presenter of the same TV network in the same city.

The Afghan leaders, media organizations, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the US Embassy in Kabul, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the Amnesty International, and the Reporters without Borders condemned the attack.

In a statement, President Ghani said that such attacks are at odds with the peace-mongering spirit and would further prolong crisis and war. Blaming the Taliban for the attack, he assured that the militant group cannot silence the voices in support of the Republic and achievements made over the past year by conducting such “cowardly” attacks.

Abdullah Abdullah, the chairperson of the Afghan High Council for National Recompilation condemned the act of killing female journalists in Jalalabad. He said the enemies of Afghanistan cannot achieve their target by shooting down the journalists and innocent people. Abdullah urged the security and judicial institution to bring the perpetrators to justice. Such “savage attacks” cannot discourage Afghanistan from its struggle to achieve a just and sustainable peace.

The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) called on the government to launch a probe into such cases and share its results with the media. According to the AJSC statement, the rising threats and violence against journalists have put the freedom of speech, Afghanistan’s most important achievement, in danger and serious attempts and pressures need to be exerted.

NAI, which is an organization supporting the open media in Afghanistan, called on the government to develop a preemptive security measure against targeted killings of the journalists and reduce their vulnerabilities against such attacks.

Describing the attack as “extremely shocking”, the AIHRC noted that freedom of speech is threatened by attacks against media, civil society, and human rights activists. It called on the government to identify the perpetrators, bring them to justice, and ensure the security of these activists. “The government is the main [authority] responsible for the protection and ensuring security.”

“These attacks are meant to intimidate; they are intended to make reporters cower; the culprits hope to stifle freedom of speech in a nation where the media has flourished during the past 20 years. This cannot be tolerated,” the US Embassy in Kabul said in a statement. It further called for an end to impunity with “open and transparent investigation” into such murders.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, has rejected the group’s involvement in the attack.

Jumagul Hemmat, police chief of Nangarhar province, has confirmed that police forces have already arrested the plotter of the attack against the three female journalists. He identified the plotter as Qari Bassir, who was arrested with a handgun and a Rickshaw from the scene of the attack.

Attacks on journalists and rights activists have increased in recent months. At least 14 activists including journalists were targeted over the last four months.

The US Embassy in Kabul, in a tweet, has called for an end to violence against journalists.