The brother of a Tolo TV employee killed in a suicide attack on Kabul television station weeps at his funeral, January 26, 2016 (Reuters/Ahmad Masood).
The brother of a Tolo TV employee killed in a suicide attack on Kabul television station weeps at his funeral, January 26, 2016 (Reuters/Ahmad Masood).

Growing fears as more Afghan journalists and media workers come under the gun

New York, February 1, 2016 — The fatal shooting of senior Afghan broadcast journalist Mohammad Zubair Khaksar on Friday and the beating of freelance reporter Yahya Jawahari on Sunday further raise concerns for the safety of Afghan journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The attacks follow a suicide bombing attack on employees of the Kabul station Tolo TV that killed at least seven people.

“Afghan journalists have long been under the gun, but the pressure on them is mounting as the security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The government has made promises to address the situation, but it must join with media owners and Afghan journalists’ organizations to find an effective method of reversing the hostile environment in which journalists and media houses are forced to operate.”

No one has claimed responsibility for fatally shooting Khaksar, a reporter for Afghanistan’s national television and radio broadcaster who also worked as a cultural adviser to the provincial governor in Nangahar, as he returned from a friend’s house on the evening of January 29, according to press reports. The “Voice of the Caliphate,” an unregistered radio station operated by a group claiming fealty to the Islamic State group, had threatened attacks on journalists in Nangahar and neighboring regions, The Associated Press reported.

In a separate attack on Sunday night, unidentified armed men sacked the house of freelance reporter Yahya Jawahari in Mazr-i-Sharif, according to a local media report. Jawahari was severely beaten. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, and the motive remains unclear, according to Afghanistan’s Khaama Press news agency.

While CPJ research shows that it is rare for those responsible for killing Afghan journalists to be punished, on January 22 Afghan forces said they had arrested eight members of a Taliban-related group on suspicion of out the January 20 suicide attack in Kabul that killed at least seven employees from the independent station Tolo TV. The victims were part of Tolo’s entertainment division, not its news team. The Taliban had openly threatened to target the station after it reported allegations of summary executions, rape, and kidnappings by Taliban fighters during the battle for the northern city of Kunduz in October.