New killings deepen Afghan journalists’ assassination fears

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IslamNews – It was Mursal Wahidi’s dream job, landed right after finishing her studies in journalism — working at a local TV station in her home city in eastern Afghanistan.

This week, the 21-year-old left the office for the day and walked home. She only made it a few steps. A gunman shot her point blank in the head and chest. She died instantly.

At around the same time, two of her co-workers, 21-year-old Sadia Sadat and 20-year-old Shahnaz Raufi, left work together, jumping into an auto rickshaw. When they got out close to their homes, gunmen in another rickshaw that had been following them opened fire, killing both women and wounding two passers-by.

The coordinated killings of the three women were the latest in a bloody campaign against journalists in Afghanistan, a country that was already considered one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. In just the last six months, 15 journalists and media workers have been killed in a series of targeted killings.

The killings have spread fear among Afghanistan’s journalist community, prompting some to stop working or flee or self-censor to avoid angering militants or government officials, who have threatened journalists reporting on killings of civilians by government forces.

The fear is even worse because the perpetrators remain mysterious, a sign of the country’s fracturing security situation even as peace negotiations try to gain a foothold. Judges, lawyers and activists have also been targeted in a wave of assassinations since Washington signed a peace deal with the Taliban a year ago.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, including Tuesday’s slaying of the three women. But many others have gone unclaimed. The government blames most on the Taliban, trying to undermine the group’s support among Afghans. The Taliban deny any role and blame the government for the slayings, saying it wants to undermine the peace process.

Zabiullah Doorandish, who works for a local TV channel in Kabul, said false information flying around, including from the government, only fuels speculation. Some “start to think maybe there are groups inside the government that are targeting media,” he said. Some armed groups are connected to officials, but no one has put forward evidence they have a role in killings.

Doorandish, who often covers corruption, violence and human rights violations, was targeted by a roadside bomb attack in May. He survived, but two colleagues were killed. Now he’s afraid every time he steps out of the house, he said.

He said he gets death threats, some claiming to be from the Taliban, but others unknown. The threats, he said, prompted him to put aside for now a documentary he was preparing about the killings of journalists.

“Whenever I cover some incident, an explosion or attack, I am filled with fear and panic,” said Doorandish, a father of two.

On Wednesday, funerals were held for the three women, who worked for Enikass Radio and TV in the city of Jalalabad. They dubbed popular and often emotion-laden dramas from Turkey and India into Afghanistan’s local languages of Dari and Pashtu. In December, IS claimed the killing of another female employee at the station, Malala Maiwand.

Source: ABC News