Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Why Taliban Purposefully Target Journalists

The Afghan Taliban are deliberately targeting, intimidating and killing journalists, particularly women. The question we shall answer here is why they do so?
The Taliban and other terrorist groups want to create unprecedented challenges for journalism. They want to force journalists to self-censor, leave their profession, and flee the country for their safety, a catastrophe for a once flourishing media and democracy landscape in Afghanistan. They also seek to affect the delivery of information, although it is not yet being felt outside of Afghanistan. They not only seek to create fear among journalists on the frontlines but also want it to lead to a lack of trust and deteriorating hope in the peace process.
It is the duty of Afghan government to not let terrorism affect the importance of freedom of expression and information in the media as one of the essential foundations of democratic society. This freedom carries with it the right of the public to be informed on matters of public concern, including terrorist acts and threats, as well as the response by the state and international organizations to them.
Taliban group are convinced that the news media are engaged in a media and propaganda war. They claim that they are facing a media and military campaign. As a result, they are targeting all types of media workers and are actively arresting and killing journalists for leaking information as well as for treason and espionage. They treat all journalists as enemies or potential traitors collaborating with the enemy.
Unfortunately, the increase in insecurity and instability in Afghanistan has had a direct impact on media and reporting. An unprecedented increase in threats and violence against journalists has created serious concern about the survival of freedoms of expression and press. Because freedom of expression, freedom of press, and media pluralism are among the country’s most important achievements in the past 20 years, the threat to media is considered a threat to the country’s overall progress.
On the other hand, increased violence and an increase in the number of terrorist groups have made the work of journalists more complicated. In such an environment, journalists and media must operate more cautiously than ever before, so as not to be exploited by the propaganda arms of various warring groups. Increased threats from the Taliban, ISK, Al-Qaeda terrorist groups to media and journalists have created a new wave of concerns about the security of journalists and media. What is seriously worrying is the Taliban’s direct attacks against media, which in 2020 is responsible for the vast majority of journalists’ deaths. In 2020 At least eight journalists were killed in the span of a couple of months. Unlike the past, none of those attacks were claimed by Taliban and a few were claimed by the Islamic State group.  In parts of the country, local Taliban commanders threatened stations that broadcast music, according to the rights group. It seems that local Taliban commanders have the authority to make their own decisions in terms of targeting journalists, without approval from senior Taliban leadership. 

At the same time, the fight against terrorism should not be used as an excuse by the state to restrict the freedom of the press. As far as journalists are concerned, they should avoid playing into the hands of the terrorists by restricting the dissemination of graphic photos and over-sensational information. Afghanistan government should Protect journalists and ensure they can do their work freely by adopting security and protection measures in compliance with the human rights principles and a gender-sensitive approach.
Demand for investigation
Several suspected attackers in some targeted killings have been arrested so far.  Afghanistan government should the journalists and the victims any information about the progress that have been made in the investigations. Only showing the confessing to the killings is not enough; Journalists have the right to know about the investigation and who were behind the attacks
Call for protection
One of the approaches can be conducting the investigation into the targeted killings and other relevant issues of journalists in collaboration with media organizations. Afghanistan government should take concrete measures for the protection of journalists in Afghanistan. To this end, it should take serious actions to reduce violence and pressure the perpetrators to cease targeting journalists.
In addition to that, international community should pressure the Taliban to stop targeting journalists. However, it is not enough that they send press releases rejecting involvement in these killings. The Taliban should be accountable for the actions of their fighters in the provinces.

Taliban and other terrorist groups are deliberately targeting, intimidating and killing journalists, particularly women in Afghanistan. If this assault on Afghanistan’s media continues, its victims will come to include not only journalists and media workers, but also general access to information, democracy, and the rule of law, and particularly the peace process. Protecting a free and independent press must be an urgent priority for all actors involved in major decision-making processes now and in the future in Afghanistan. Afghanistan government must preserve this fundamental pillar of a free and pluralistic society to honor the sacrifices of the many we have lost but also to support and stand by a nation reaching for peace.  At the same time, the international community also should take the necessary measures to put Taliban under pressure and make them accountable against the deliberately targeting, intimidating and killing journalists, particularly women, and civilians in the country.