New York, March 14, 2023–The Taliban must ensure that those responsible for the recent bombing at a press award event that killed journalist Hosein Naderi are brought to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On Saturday, March 11, a bomb exploded at a cultural center in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, while members of the press had gathered to mark National Journalists Day. The militant Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that it targeted journalists “working in agencies involved in the war and instigation against IS.”
News reports have since identified Naderi, a journalist at the independent Afghan Voice Agency who focused on news in Balkh, as having died in the blast. AVA editor-in-chief Abbas Hoseini confirmed his death in a phone call with CPJ. A security guard at the cultural center was also killed in the attack.
“It’s barbaric to target journalists at an event meant to celebrate their courage and determination to keep the world informed about Afghanistan,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The recent deadly bombing is a painful reminder of the hostile climate for journalists and the drastic decline of press freedom since the Taliban takeover. The Taliban must do everything they can to protect journalists and let them work safely.”
A total of 16 members of the press were injured in the explosion, including nine who received serious injuries with some suffering hearing loss, according to two of those journalists, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal by the Taliban and IS.
The blast followed a suicide bombing in Mazar-e-Sharif for which the Islamic State claimed credit, which killed the provincial governor and two others.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent via messaging app.
Afghanistan was ranked fourth on CPJ’s 2022 Global Impunity Index, which spotlights countries with the worst records for prosecuting murderers of journalists.