A new report by the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee reveals that in the past 6 months, there has been an 18% reduction in the number of women working for the media in Afghanistan. This decline comes amidst the ongoing violence and increased level of threats targeted at journalists and those working with the media. Women receive the highest level of threats and have been the biggest victims in losing their careers and safety. The report’s finding suggests that in the past few months, over 300 women journalists and media workers left their jobs because of safety and security concerns. Prior to the decline, there were 1,678 women who worked as journalists and media workers in Afghanistan. The number now stands at 1,377.
In the past six months, 12 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan. Many more have been threatened, leading to an exodus of journalists from their jobs, and even from their country, for their own safety. This month alone, three young women who worked for a local TV and radio network in the east of the country, Jalalabad city, were shot dead on their way home from work. A fourth colleague of theirs was injured. A well-known presenter of the same network, Malalai Maiwand, also a woman, was gunned down in December 2020 on her way to work.
On January 1st this year, Bismillah Adel, a well-known journalist and human rights advocate in the west of the country, Badghis, was killed shortly after he arrived in town to visit his family. He had moved to Kabul to a safe house for journalists after receiving threats. Two months after his death, unknown gunmen stormed his family house, killed three members of the family, kidnapped three and injured four. In addition to journalists and media workers being targeted directly, the tragedy of families becoming collateral in this war in Afghanistan is not new.
For the past two decades, the media and a free press have been one of the major achievements of the international community’s engagement in Afghanistan. Afghan journalists took risks in creating a thriving media scene, one that up until recently, was unprecedented in Afghanistan and in the surrounding region. It grew from just one Taliban propaganda radio station to hundreds of radio and TV stations, newspapers, magazines, and journals.
Free press is a key pillar of strengthening and promoting a democracy, a vision strongly shared by the Afghan journalists. Despite the many challenges, they remain committed to their duty to deliver information, to strengthen and promote their nascent democracy.
Tolonews 3/8/2021, Pajhwok 3/8/2021, Atlantic Council 3/8/2021, BBC 3/3/2021, CNN 12/10/2020