Rahmatollah Nekzad, who had worked for international media including the Associated Press and Al Jazeera since 2003, was gunned down at dawn yesterday near his home in Ghazni, the capital of the central province of the same name. His unidentified killers reportedly shot him three times in the head using a pistol with silencer. Aged 50, he was the father of six children.
“This despicable murder must not go unpunished,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk. “A thorough and transparent investigation must be carried out and those responsible must be prosecuted. “The Afghan authorities must act with urgency and the United Nations must take concrete measures to curb the growing violence against journalists and to protect them. Afghan journalists and media must not be condemned to helplessness by the silence from international bodies.”
Nekzad was the third journalist to be the victim of a targeted murder in Afghanistan in the past six weeks.
Islamic State claimed the murder of Malalai Maiwand, 30, who was shot by two gunmen while on her way to her job at the privately-owned Enekaas TV channel in the eastern city of Jalalabad on 10 December. They also killed her driver, Taher Khan.
Mohammad Aliyas Dayee, a journalist with the Pashto-language service of Radio Azadi, the Afghan branch Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was killed by a bomb placed under his car in Lashkargah, the capital of the southern province of Helmand, on 12 November. No one has so far claimed his murder.
Taliban spokesman Zabiholah Mojahed condemned Nekzad’s murder, claiming that the Taliban maintained good relations with him.
Violence against journalists and media has increased in Afghanistan in recent months, although a respite might have been expected because of the peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. In all, six journalists and media workers have been killed this year in Afghanistan.
Backed by RSF, the Afghan journalistic community wrote a letter to the UN Security Council on 18 November urging it to take concrete measures to combat the growing violence against the media in Afghanistan and to put pressure on those responsible to stop targeting journalists.
Afghanistan is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.