Radio Hiwad reporter Abdulhamid Hotaki became the fifth journalist to be killed this year in Afghanistan when he died as a result of the injuries sustained in the bombing of President Ashraf Ghani’s election campaign office in the southern city of Kandahar on 24 September. A total of 17 candidates are disputing Ghani’s bid to be reelected.
Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN secretary-general’s special representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), has called for an end to the intimidation and for respect for the right to vote. But the Taliban continue to threaten the country’s nine million voters by declaring polling stations to be “military targets.”
“We call on all democratic candidates to renew their commitment to press freedom and the protection of journalists,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Afghanistan desk. “The role of the media will be decisive in this election, both as sources of information and as poll observers.”
With just days to go to the election, RSF visited Afghanistan from 10 to 20 September to organized four seminars for a total of 65 journalists (including 29 women) from 19 provinces and 48 independent media outlets.
At the request of the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ), RSF’s partner in Afghanistan, RSF provide specific training for women reporters with the help of the Safety Guide for Journalists and the Handbook for Journalists during Elections, which were translated into Persian and Pashto for the occasion.
RSF backed the CPAWJ campaign entitled, “Vote for the candidates that defend the rights of women journalists.” Six candidates have so far signed the CPAWJ pledge. And at a news conference in Kabul on 18 September, RSF and the Federation of Associations and Media in Afghanistan launched a campaign entitled, “There will be no just and lasting peace without guarantees for press freedom.”
RSF calls on all candidates to undertake to:
• Do their utmost to ensure protection for press freedom and journalists, respecting the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s constitution and laws, and the international standards enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
• Strengthen all the fundamental laws, decrees and institutions that, for the past 18 years, have guaranteed press freedom, the protection of journalists and, in particular, the rights of women journalists.
• Protect and reinforce the measures that the government of national union and the coordinating committee for the safety of journalists and media have taken to defend the freedom to inform. Reinforce the work of the sub-committees that have been created to monitor and respond to threats and abuses against journalists and media, and the work of the General Directorate for Analysing and Combatting Crime.
• Respect the rights of women journalists to work freely.
Afghanistan is ranked 121st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.