TV reporter killed in Afghanistan

New York, November 4, 2016–Naimatullah Zaheer, a reporter with the Afghan private television station Ariana News, was killed by roadside bomb today in the southern province of Helmand.

Zaheer and a group of local reporters were travelling to an area in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand, where the Afghan military had fought with the Taliban the previous night, when their vehicle came under fire. Following advice from police, the group drove off the main road. Shortly thereafter, the journalists’ vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED). The blast killed Zaheer and seriously wounded his driver, Abdul Mannaf, according to news reports. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

“The death of journalist Maimatullah Zaheer is a terrible reminder of the perils Afghan journalists risk to report the news,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia Program coordinator. “We call on the Afghan government to do everything it can to pursue those responsible for his death.”

Zaheer worked with the Ariana News Television Networks for eight years and had reported on the security, social, political and cultural issues in Helmand province, according to a statement published by the TV network, which described him as “a dedicated and hardworking provincial reporter.”

At least four journalists have been killed in Afghanistan since the beginning of this year. In June, David Gilkey, an American photographer for the US public broadcaster NPR and his Afghan interpreter, Zabihullah Tamanna, were killed by a rocket propelled grenade while traveling with an Afghan army unit. Nangarhar Radio and Television reporter Mohammed Zubair Khaksar and Radio Television Afghanistan reporter Yaqoub Sharafat were fatally shot by unknown gunmen in January and October respectively.

Afghanistan ranked seventh on CPJ’s 2016 Impunity Index, which highlights countries where journalists are murdered and their killers go free. Over the past year, the Taliban has threatened and assaulted journalists. In January, a suicide bombing killed seven employees of the Afghan station Tolo TV. The Taliban had previously threatened journalists associated with the TV station with “elimination,” CPJ reported at the time.