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Media watchdog reports a sharp increase in violence against journalists

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(Last Updated On: February 4, 2021)

The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee said Thursday that it recorded 132 threats and violence against journalists in 2020 – a 26 percent increase compared to 2019.

This includes the death of seven journalists and media workers. Five were killed as a result of targeted killings and two with IEDs.

The AJSC said in its annual report, released Thursday, that this reports the worrying state of journalists safety and press freedom in the country.

“The rise in violence particularly the targeted killing of journalists has generated extensive fear among media workers, reduced media outlets’ content production capabilities, and expanded self-censorship,” the committee said.

The organizations stated that Afghanistan has reached a historically critical juncture and that although recent rounds of peace negotiations have caused some hopes that an end to the four-decade conflict may be in sight, the surge in violence – especially the targeted killing of journalists and civil society activists – has cast serious concerns over whether peace talks will succeed and whether core values enshrined in the constitution on freedom of expression and civil liberties will be protected if peace talks lead to a political settlement.

“The dramatically increased levels of direct attacks and assassinations of journalists at the end of 2020 has created widespread panic among media outlets and journalists across Afghanistan.

“These attacks have had a noticeably adverse effect on impartial and objective reporting, with many journalists admitting to reconsidering both how and whether to report on certain topics for fear of reprisal – effectively amounting to the increasingly widespread practice of self-censorship,” the AJSC said in a statement.

In addition, the economic impact of Covid-19 has compounded existing financial challenges for media outlets, often frustrating their efforts to raise sufficient funds, and thereby their capacity to generate media content.

The AJSC said media and civil society groups remain concerned that the delegation representing the Afghan Republic in negotiations with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar lacks a coherent strategy to preserve key constitutional rights including freedom of speech and a free and independent media.

“The Taliban’s ideological opposition to these values enhances concerns about the future of such freedoms. Further, the government’s efforts in early 2020 to draft a new Media Law, which could extensively limit press freedom if enacted, and the lack of meaningful commitment to investigate the cases of murdered journalists have fueled these concerns,” the statement read.

The report states that in 2020, AJSC recorded threats and violence against 132 journalists and media workers, which includes killing of journalists, injuring them, physical assault, kidnapping, various forms of threats, theft, verbal, legal and administrative abuse.

“2020 data shows 26 percent increase in violence and threats compared to 2019 in which AJSC recorded violence and threats against 105 journalists and media workers,” the statement read.

In addition to the seven journalists and media workers killed, 18 journalists and media workers were injured whilst reporting and on duty.

Another 10 journalists were physically assaulted, 47 threatened, 28 verbally abused and 13 journalists and media workers faced legal and administrative abuse by media managers.

Seven journalists were kidnapped and two experienced theft while gathering content from the field.

The AJSC said that based on data collected, Taliban and Daesh account for the majority of violence and threats against journalists. Government officials come second.

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Khulm district officially moved from Balkh to Samangan

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(Last Updated On: August 9, 2022)

Khulm district has been detached from Balkh province and is now part of Samangan province, a senior official said on Tuesday.

Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Mohsin Hashimi, visited the region and said that government had decided to incorporate Khulm district into Samangan province.

Hashimi said that he had been instructed to transfer administrative and security responsibilities for Khulm district to Samangan province in the presence of the governors of both the provinces and give assurances to the local people and security forces.

Balkh Governor Qudratullah Abu Hamza said that security responsibility for Khulm district has been handed over to Samangan authorities.

Meanwhile, Abdul Rahman Kunduzi, the governor of Samangan, dismissed concerns that the move would affect businesses in Khulm district which has until now been part of a province that sits on vital trade routes into Central Asia

“There is no problem for investment in any province,” Kunduzi said.

Khulm district initially had been part of Samangan province, but it was moved to Balkh province during Hamid Karzai’s rule.

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Russia successfully launches Iranian satellite

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(Last Updated On: August 9, 2022)

A Russian rocket on Tuesday successfully launched an Iranian satellite into orbit from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan, AP reported.

The Soyuz rocket lifted off as scheduled at 8:52 am Moscow time. About nine minutes after the launch, it placed the Iranian satellite called Khayyam into orbit. It’s named after Omar Khayyam, a Persian scientist who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Iran has said the satellite fitted with high-resolution camera will be used for environmental monitoring and will remain fully under its control.

Tehran said no other country will have access to information it gathers and it would be used for civilian purposes only, but there have been allegations that Russia may use it for surveillance of Ukraine amid its military action there.

If it operates successfully, the satellite would give Iran the ability to monitor its archenemy Israel and other countries in the Middle East, AP reported.

Yuri Borisov, head of Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos, hailed the launch as an “important landmark” in cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.

Iranian state television aired footage of the launch live, noting that the country’s telecommunications minister attended the liftoff in Kazakhstan. Tehran said the satellite will help improve productivity in the agriculture sector, survey water resources, manage natural disasters, confront deforestation and monitor border areas.

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Karzai says it’s time the US corrects its mistakes in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: August 9, 2022)

Former president Hamid Karzai said this week that while Afghanistan was more secure today than a year ago, the economy was a “disaster” and that it was time for the US to “correct it’s mistakes”. 

In an interview with NPR this week, Karzai discussed the current situation in the country and the events of August 15 last year.

He said at the time of the collapse of the former government and the takeover by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), he had feared for his safety, but not because of the IEA but because of external forces. 

“The Taliban (IEA) are Afghans. They belong to this country. We know them, they know us. I felt external forces, and feared that more,” Karzai said, mentioning foreign countries and elements within Pakistan, in particular, NPR reported.

According to Karzai, he stayed and met with IEA leaders, and said that they all seemed to want the same thing: a peaceful and progressing Afghanistan. 

“In terms of [an] end to widespread fighting and conflict, we are happy — there’s more stability, there’s more security,” Karzai said. 

“But in terms of Afghanistan having a government that all Afghan people find themselves [in], we still have a way to go. In terms of the economy of the country, it’s a disaster. In terms of Afghans leaving their own country, it’s a huge disaster and a shame upon us. And this is something that the Taliban IIEA) have to address.”

Karzai told NPR the IEA acknowledges that there are problems, and that the US made “immense mistakes” in Afghanistan.

NPR reported that he is still angry about civilian casualties during the war, saying the US bombed the wrong people so often that he refuses to believe it was a mistake. 

Karzai also spoke out about the chaotic withdrawal of troops and said it had been “very dishonorable.” Families were separated amidst the chaos, and some Afghans desperate to evacuate clung to a military plane as it took off. At least two people fell to their deaths, which Karzai called a “disgrace to both of us.”

He told NPR there were things the US could do to help the Afghan people now, including unfreezing the country’s financial reserves.

“I need for the United States government to correct its mistakes in Afghanistan, to help the Afghan people stand back on their feet,” he said.

Karzai also told NPR he had met IEA leaders, all of whom had expressed a desire for better relations with the US.

But he said there were things the IEA must do first to gain trust and make progress within their own country.

“We must make sure that all the Afghan people see themselves belonging to this country and represented by the government, and that we take all the necessary steps to prove to the rest of the world that we mean well for Afghanistan,” he said.

He also said girls’ education was an issue and said he was worried the ban sets the whole country back. He warned that “a decade from now we’ll be worse than what we are now.”

NPR reported that Karzai feels there are many reasons why the IEA should take steps to prove to the world that they are trying to better the country.

“That will also make it easier for someone like me to go into the international community and say, ‘Well, we’re now on the right path towards a better future and deserve support,'” he said.

But Karzai can’t go out into the international community, even if he wanted to. He said he had asked the IEA for permission to travel abroad for several functions and events, but had always been denied, NPR reported.

As they explained it to Karzai the first time, they are honored that he is in Afghanistan and fear that things will fall apart if he doesn’t come back. He said they all knew that he would come back.

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