Besmellah Adel Imaq, the director of the Voice of Ghor radio station, was gunned down as he was returning home in Firoz Koh, the capital of the central province of Ghor, on the afternoon of 1 January, becoming the first Afghan journalist to be murdered in 2021 and the fifth media worker to be killed in the past two months.
Imaq had been the target of two prior murder attempts, the latest in November, and had reported the threats against him to the authorities. After they took no steps to protect him, he filed complaints with journalists’ associations.
The other media victims of the past two months are Mohammad Aliyas Dayee of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Pashto-language service, murdered in Lashkargah on 12 November, Malalai Maiwand, a TV presenter and representative of the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ), and her driver Taher Khan, who were murdered in Jalalabad on 10 December, and Rahmatollah Nekzad, a reporter for international media, who was gunned down in Ghazni on 21 December.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) and the police say that eight individuals linked to the Taliban have been arrested as suspects in these four murders. When reached by RSF a few hours after Imaq’s murder, Taliban spokesman Zabiholah Mojahed said the Taliban had “no interest in killing journalists.”
“The impunity and opaqueness surrounding the murders of journalists are a major scourge in Afghanistan, but a godsend for all those seeking to destroy press freedom in this country,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk. “It is vital that the Afghan authorities guarantee and reinforce the safety of media personnel. At the same time, RSF is exploring all possible international remedies for ending the spiral of violence.”
In a 31 December communiqué, the NDS said it had thwarted three attacks against journalists in the provinces de Khost, Kabul and Ghazni. Threats and violence against journalists and media have surged in Afghanistan in recent months, although a respite might have been expected because of the peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Nearly 100 political and civil society actors, including five media workers, have been the targets of attacks in the past two years.
Afghanistan is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.