Afghanistan : US photographer and Afghan journalist killed in Helmand province

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is saddened to learn that US photographer and video reporter David Gilkey and his Afghan interpreter, Zabihullah Tamanna, were killed yesterday in southern Afghanistan when the Afghan army convoy they were travelling with came under rebel fire.

RSF calls on the Afghan authorities to provide journalists with more protection, especially from the Taliban threat.

Aged 50, Gilkey had been covering the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq for National Public Radio (NPR) ever since 9/11. Tamanna, 38, was a photojournalist who had been working for NPR as a translator. The Afghan army vehicle in which they were travelling was hit by rebel fire near Marjah, in Helmand province.

The Afghanistan conflict has taken a heavy toll on media personnel since 2001. At least 35 journalists, including 16 foreign journalists, have been killed in connection with their work. For the most part, these crimes have gone unpunished.

Gilkey and Tamanna were killed on the ninth anniversary of the murder of Zakia Zaki, one of the most emblematic figures of Afghan journalism. The director of Sada-e-Solh (Voice of Peace Radio) in Jabal Saraj, in the northern province of Parwan, she was murdered by gunmen who entered her home on the night of 5 June 2007 and shot her seven times in front of her two-year-old son.

According to the information obtained by RSF, the murderers were followers of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the founder and leader of the Islamist group Hezb-e-Islami (HIA). Several sources said that, several months before Zaki’s murder, Hekmatyar issued a fatwa against her, saying: “If you want to protect Islam, you must silence this woman’s voice.”

A radical fundamentalist group and former Taliban ally, HIA signed an agreement with the government on 18 May. Zaki’s murderers have never been publicly identified or brought to justice. No proper investigation has ever been carried out by the authorities (read RSF’s report).

Although Afghanistan’s current National Unity Government has taken encouraging measures to defend freedom of information, RSF continues to voice concern about the impunity enjoyed by those responsible for violence and abuses against journalists.

Afghanistan is ranked 120th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

Published on
Updated on 08.06.2016