Reporters Without Borders is shocked to learn that Canadian newspaper reporter Michelle Lang was killed yesterday in the southern province of Kandahar when a roadside bomb struck the Canadian military vehicle she was travelling in. Four Canadian soldiers were also killed.
“Lang’s death just two days before the New Year is a cruel reminder of the dangers that journalists face in war zones,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The growing number of cowardly, indiscriminate attacks by Islamist groups, not only in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan and Somalia, has greatly increased the dangers for reporters who take the risk of covering events close up.”
“’We offer our sincerest condolences to Michelle Lang’s family and condolences,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard and François Bugingo, the president of the organisation’s Canadian section.
A total of 19 journalists, 11 of them foreign, have been killed in Afghanistan since 11 September 2001. Five of the victims, including Afghan journalist Zakia Zaki and French journalist Johanne Sutton, were women.
Lang, who worked for the Calgary Herald, was on her first assignment to Afghanistan and was embedded with the Canadian troops whose main base in is the extremely volatile province of Kandahar. She was riding in a Canadian military vehicle that was hit when a roadside bomb went off at around 4 p.m. yesterday.
She was the seventh woman journalist to be killed in 2009. Three of the others were Russian, including journalist and human rights investigator Natalia Estemirova, who was killed in Chechnya. The other three were among the 30 reporters who were killed in an election-related massacre in the southern Philippines on 23 November.
Radical Islamist groups have caused the death of at least 16 journalists worldwide. The Al-Shabaab militia in Somalia has stepped up its targeting killings and suicide bombings. At least nine journalists have been killed in Somalia, including four working for Radio Shabelle, a station that has tried to keep covering developments amid the chaos.
Reporters are also increasingly being targeted by the Taliban in northwestern Pakistan. And Faheem Siddiqi, a Pakistani reporter working for Geo TV, was badly injured in a suicide bombing on a procession marking the Shiite religious ceremony of Ashura in Karachi on 28 December.