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We hear of the plight of journalists in Afghanistan

BRANCH COMMITTEE member Safiullah Tazib told the September meeting something of the plight of journalists in Afghanistan, alongside the IFJ's Ernest Sagaga (see here). He opened by reminding us of the massacre of nine journalists, killed in deliberately-targeted attacks in Kabul on 30 April, along with a separate incident in which a BBC journalist in the country was killed on the same day. Another journalist had been shot dead a few days earlier on the way to work, with two more killed shortly before that in a double suicide bombing in Kabul.

A meeting in Kabul, Afghanistan

Safiullah meets with journalists' representatives in Kabul, Afghanistan. L to R: Hujatullah Mujadidi, Vice President of Afghan Independent Journalists' Association; Abdusamad Hamed Poya, General Director of Media Bazaa; Safi; Sardar Mohammad Dindarkhail, Director of Gaheez Forum of Writers; Aziz Tassal, President of Kabul Press Club; Ahmad Zia Rahimzai, Managing Director of Satre Awal weekly; and Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar, Executive Director of NAI.

The IFJ categorises Afghanistan as the "worst country for journalists", with 14 killed in 2018 alone. Safi described an incident in May last year in which six radio journalists were killed in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, and there have been many more such atrocities in the country recently - more than 47 local journalists and 16 foreign journalists have been killed in the course of their work in Afghanistan since 2001.

It was, however, the mass killing on 30 April that "shocked the world" and prompted LFB, through Safi, to establish a link with Kabul journalist unions, in a letter of solidarity and condolence delivered by Safi in June (see the August Freelance).

Afghanistan's journalists have exposed corrupt MPs - one involved in drug running to Moscow and another who diverted a national airline plane to come and pick him up from Kabul - as a result, neither of them were able to stand for election again. Afghanistan's 220 media outlets are "restrained on a daily basis" as a result of their reporting on corruption.

The UK has a stake in Afghanistan. The UK has lost 457 soldiers in Afghanistan in the most recent bout of engagement. There are still 1120 British soldiers in Afghanistan, which Safi described as a "presence which helps the free press." Afghans "appreciate our letters," said Safi. The "support they need is to help with protection on their work... to lobby the UK government to force the Afghan government to provide more protection." They also requested "training with investigative reporting, financial assistance to children of killed journalists and employment rights." Safi explained that most Afghan journalists are staff but have no holidays and no sick pay.

There are currently 17 different journalists' unions in Afghanistan, but these are "working to create one big federation that will represent them all as a united union".

How else can we practically help them? "Would it be possible to occasionally send experts to train them?" they asked Safi. Afghan journalists want us to persuade UK government to encourage the Afghan government to provide financial assistance to children of slain journalists.