New York, January 4, 2021 – Afghan authorities must conduct a swift and through investigation into the killing of journalist Bismillah Adel Aimaq and take all possible steps to protect members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On January 1, unidentified attackers shot and killed Aimaq, the head of local broadcaster Radio Sada-e-Ghor and a human rights activist, while he was driving on the outskirts of Feroz Koh, a city in the central Ghor province, according to multiple news reports. The provincial governor’s spokesperson, Arif Abir, said that the other passengers in the car, including Aimaq’s brother, were unharmed, those reports said.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, and police have opened an investigation, according to those reports, which also said that a Taliban spokesperson had denied that the group was connected to the killing.
Aimaq is at least the third journalist to have been killed in Afghanistan since early December 2020, according to CPJ research. A wave of targeted and unclaimed killings has taken place during negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, according to reports.
“The killing of Afghan journalist Bismillah Adel Aimaq is a tragic start to the new year and shows that the alarming increase in attacks on the media in Afghanistan is continuing in 2021,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher. “Afghan authorities must swiftly determine the motive in this killing, bring the perpetrators to account, and do everything in their power to ensure the safety of journalists.”
On November 7, Aimaq wrote on his personal Facebook account, where he frequently posted reporting and political commentary, that unidentified people had shot at his house and car, and that he was unharmed and had reported the incidents to security officials, according to CPJ’s review of his account and those news reports.
Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar, head of Nai, a local press freedom organization, told CPJ via messaging app that the group believed the November attacks were related to Aimaq’s work, but said they did not know who was responsible for them.
CPJ emailed the Afghan Ministry of Interior for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.
At least five journalists were murdered in Afghanistan in retribution for their work in 2020, making it one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press, according to CPJ research.