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Watchdog raises concern over attacks plaguing media industry

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(Last Updated On: December 28, 2020)
Afghanistan’s media workers have warned if government does not step up efforts to preserve freedom of expression and safeguard their lives they might end up being forced to flee the country. 
 
This comes after a string of attacks left five media workers dead in two months – amid a marked increase in targeted killings and attempted assassinations.  
 
At a meeting on Saturday, Afghan media workers said the escalation of targeted attacks against journalists and media workers has also led to self-censorship. 
 
In a statement issued by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the organization stated that the Afghan government and Taliban urgently need to consider and respond to the demands of the Afghan media for support, safety, protection, timely investigations and access to information.
 
The AIHRC said targeted killings of journalists in the past few months have had a negative impact on media across the country and that many female journalists from the provinces have left their jobs. 
 
“It is very difficult for journalists to have access to the districts, even those near the provincial centers. They cannot easily move around the city. When those working in media including journalists are threatened, they refer to government security agencies, but, according to journalists, their concerns and demands are not given sufficient attention by the security institutions,” the statement read.
 
At Saturday’s meeting, over 100 journalists and representatives of media support organizations shared their concerns and challenges with Shaharzad Akbar, the AIHRC’s Chairperson and the commission’s leadership.
 
AIHRC said: “There has been a lot of psychological pressure on those working in media in Afghanistan in recent months due to the environment of fear and intimidation created by the targeted attacks. 
 
“The media community are worried about more restrictions that could affect their work and their lives. 
 
“The government of Afghanistan has not shared sufficient information on preventing the targeted killings of journalists and prosecuting the perpetrators.”
 
This also comes just weeks after government announced it had dismantled the spokesperson position for provincial governor offices.
 
Since the decision came into effect, on December 2, the governors themselves are responsible for giving information to the media. 
 
“Dismantling this position has caused concern about disruption in the free circulation of information in the country. Most journalists complain about lack of access to information and data at the provincial level. 
 
“To this end, the media call on the government to ensure freedom of expression and respect people’s right to access information by revising the decision about dismantling the spokesperson position in the provincial governors’ offices,” the statement read.
 
Journalists at the meeting also called for a number of other measures to be considered. 
 
They asked for the international community to pressure the warring parties to agree to a ceasefire and end the violence and targeted killings; that the Afghan government must prevent targeted attacks, ensure security of journalists, and investigate cases of murder, threat, intimidation and violations against journalists. And also identify and prosecute the perpetrators and share the results with the people and families of the victims.
 
The journalists stated that the Taliban cannot abdicate responsibility for the attacks by mere denials and said if the Taliban is not involved, they must share their information and findings with the public. 
 
Some journalists expressed their concern over hate-inducing, violent language and narratives by local Taliban-affiliated media regarding independent journalists and free press and said this language and narrative has the potential to be normalized and could end up spreading violence against independent media.
 
The AIHRC meanwhile expressed its concern about the threats and limitations facing the media and journalists and called on the international community, Afghan government and Taliban to urgently consider the situation. 
 
Freedom of expression and the growth of the media sector is one of Afghanistan’s most significant achievements over the past twenty years and the media in Afghanistan has played an important role in ensuring citizens’ access to information, holding the government accountable, and promoting democratic institutions despite the difficult security situation. 

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UN defers decision to give IEA govt a seat in general assembly

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2021)

A special UN committee has ruled that Afghanistan’s seat in the UN General Assembly should not be given to the new Afghan government for now.

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) Doha-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen, who is the IEA’s nominated UN ambassador, said in response to the announcement that “this decision is not based on principles and justice because it has taken away the legitimate rights of the Afghan people.

“We hope that in the near future this right will be handed over to the representative of the Government of Afghanistan at the United Nations so that the problems of the Afghan people can be solved more effectively and efficiently and we can have positive interactions with the international community.”

This comes after a UN committee on Wednesday deferred a decision on who will represent Afghanistan and Myanmar at the United Nations.

Rival claims were made for the seats of both countries with the IEA and Myanmar’s junta pitted against ambassadors appointed by the governments they ousted this year.

UN acceptance of the IEA or Myanmar’s junta would be a step toward the international recognition sought by both.

The nine-member UN credentials committee, which includes Russia, China and the United States, met at UN headquarters to consider the credentials of all 193 members for the current session of the UN General Assembly.

Several diplomats had told Reuters that the committee was likely to defer its decisions on the representation of Afghanistan and Myanmar on the understanding that the current ambassadors for both countries remain in those seats.

While the committee chair, Sweden’s UN Ambassador Anna Karin Enestrom, told reporters the decisions had been deferred, she declined to comment on whether the ambassador appointed by the former Ashraf Ghani government for Afghanistan would still represent their countries.

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Clash between Afghan and Iranian forces was a misunderstanding: Mujahid

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2021)

Clashes between Iran’s border forces and Afghanistan’s Islamic Emirate (IEA) forces in Nimroz province have ended and were attributed to a “border misunderstanding”, IEA officials said on Thursday.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Islamic Emirate, said that a clash broke out between Afghan and Iranian security forces in the border area of Kang district in Nimroz province on Wednesday, but has now been brought under control by both sides.

He added that in order to prevent a recurrence, IEA officials have given the necessary guidance.

The IEA also said that no casualties were reported by either side.

Although the Iranian government has had generally good relations with the IEA, there have been longstanding tensions along the border, which has active smuggling routes and thousands of refugees crossing every day, Reuters reported.

The Afghan foreign ministry meanwhile said on Thursday that the dispute along the border in Kang district, “ended with the efforts of border officials, and efforts will be made to prevent such incidents from happening again”.

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IEA delegation hold talks with envoys from 16 countries in Doha

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan(IEA) delegation led by Afghan acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on Wednesday met in Doha with 16 designated ambassadors and representatives for Afghanistan to discuss security, humanitarian, economic, political, and health issues.

Spokesman for the foreign ministry, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, said that during the meeting all sides appreciated the progress made around security, but stated Afghanistan urgently needed more humanitarian aid and health assistance.

“The IEA assured them of security, pledged to cooperate in delivering aid and called on all countries to reopen their embassies in Kabul to assess realities from up close and to open a new chapter of positive relations,” Balkhi tweeted.

According to Balkhi, representatives of the following countries attended the meeting: Germany, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, Italy, South Korea, EU Commission, Spain, US, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, UK, and Japan.

Meanwhile, Balkhi said that in a separate meeting Muttaqi met with Indonesian ambassador Ridwan Hassan in Doha to discuss bilateral cooperation and political issues.
At the meeting the Indonesian ambassador showed willingness to cooperate regarding Afghanistan’s political and humanitarian situation, adding the two countries should have close relations.

The ambassador also expressed optimism about reopening the Indonesian embassy in Kabul soon, Balkhi said.

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