16 Journalists injured in Mazar-i-Sharif

Attack on Afghan journalists in Mazar-e-Sharif widely condemned

The deadly blast which targeted a gathering of local journalists on Saturday in Mazar-e-Sharif, killing at least three people and wounding 16 journalists, has been widely condemned by media organizations, the UN, EU, US, Iran, and an Afghan political figure.

A group of local journalists who were invited by the Iran-backed Tebyan Culture Centre in Mazar-e-Sharif, capital city of the northern Balkh province, in an honouring event on Saturday were targeted by the blast at the centre’s headquarter.

Spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Kanaani, strongly condemned it as a “cowardly terrorist” attack and said that perpetrators of the attack were enemies of Afghanistan’s security, stability, and peace.

“Afghan reporters show immense courage and must be protected,” said the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in a tweet, denouncing the attack as “despicable attack” on Afghan journalists. The UN Special Rapporteur Richard Bennet said that he was closely monitoring the blast and noted that increased protection was necessary for journalists.

He termed the deadly blast as “another blow to the freedom of expression” in Afghanistan.

The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West said he was saddened by the “terrorist attack” against journalist in the centre. “Deeply saddened by the terrorist attack on journalists at the Tabyan Cultural Centre. We condemn these continued, senseless acts of violence,” the US special envoy added regarding the attack on the Iranian-backed cultural centre in northern Afghanistan.

The attack on Tebyan in Mazar-i-Sharif is not the first time the organisation has been targeted. In 2017, an attack on a Tebyan gathering in Kabul killed at least 40 people and was claimed by the Islamic State – Khurasan Province.

Deputy Head of Delegation of the EU in Afghanistan Rafaella Iodice also condemned the attack strongly, noting that “this violence must stop”.

NAI, an Afghan media advocacy organization, said that the attack injured more than 15 journalists and that some of the journalist were questioned and interrogated by Taliban security officials after the incident.

“Security officials should know that interrogating is a practice that can be done based on special conditions. Journalists should not be questioned at the same time that they are the victim,” NAI said in a statement, referring to Taliban security officials.

Of prominent Afghan politic figures, Ata Mohammad Noor, who served for more than a decade as governor of Balkh province during the previous regime and is now the leader of the Hizbe Jamiat-e-Islami party of Afghanistan, was the only one who condemned the attack.

The journalists who still stick to reporting despite many hardships under the Taliban rule do not have safety and security, he said in a tweet.