Afghanistan: BBC reporter gunned down

New York, June 9, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists joins with the family and colleagues of  Afghan journalist Abdul Samad Rohani in mourning his death, and calls on the recently appointed governor of Helmand province, Gulab Mangal, to press investigators to find his killers.

Rohani disappeared on Saturday near Lashkar Gah, Helmand’s capital. He was found dead near the city the next day, shot several times. Rohani was the Helmand reporter for the Pashto service of the BBC and also contributed to the Pajhwok Afghan news agency, the country’s largest independent news service.

“Abdul Samad Rohani’s death underscores the dangers Afghan journalists face while covering a local story with global implications,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Helmand’s governor must make it a priority to find Rohani’s killers. Journalists in the province must know they have the government’s protection as they go about their jobs.”

A native of Helmand, Rohani had distinguished himself as a brave, well-connected reporter with a streak of eloquence in his Pashto reporting, according to colleagues. He had worked for the BBC since 2006.

Colleagues became concerned when they could not reach Rohani by cell phone on Saturday. Helmand province lies along the dangerous border with Pakistan, and is home to Taliban and al-Qaeda militants, as well as a flourishing opium trade.

In April 2007, freelance reporter Ajmal Nakshbandi was beheaded in Helmand by Taliban captors. He had been working with Italian reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo, who was released. The men’s driver, Sayed Agha, was killed a few weeks earlier.

A representative of the Taliban, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, told The Associated Press on Sunday that his group was not behind Rohani’s death.