Attack on private TV channel's bus draws sharp criticism
KABUL (Pajhwok): Wednesday evening’s suicide attack on a private TV channel’s bus in the heart of Kabul has drawn sharp criticism from media watchdogs and other organisations.
At least seven TOLO TV workers were killed and 26 others injured as a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the minibus at the Allauddin intersection in the limits of third police district.
Asking insurgency groups to immediately stop targeting civilians, Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed the incident as an atrocity designed to undermine Afghanistan’s still-fragile media freedom.
“The targeting of journalists reflects a depraved strategy to make media freedom a casualty of the ongoing conflict,” commented Patricia Gossman, senior Afghanistan researcher at HRW.
“Designating journalists and other civilians as military targets does not make them so, and deliberately attacking them constitutes a war crime,” she said, lamenting increasing intimidation and violence from both state and non-state figures in recent years.
“Afghan insurgents should respect the right for journalists to operate without fear for their lives from deliberate targeted attacks,” Gossman said. “So long as insurgents falsely categorize journalists as ‘military targets,’ media freedom in Afghanistan is in peril.”
The US Embassy in Kabul said: "We strongly condemn the attack on a bus carrying media professionals on Darul Aman Road in Kabul. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families during this difficult time."
A statement from the embassy said killing those who worked to enlighten, educate and entertain would not stop the Afghans from exercising their universal human right to freedom of expression.
“A vibrant media is one of the great successes of the Afghan people over the past 14 years. We stand with the Afghan people and government as they work to build peace and security in the country," it added.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said journalists, as civilians, may never be the object of attack or threats. It called on all parties to the conflict, including the Taliban, to rescind any threats against the media.
“Strong and independent journalism, free from intimidation and fear of criminal violence, is essential for a healthy democracy and decent society,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan.
Also the acting-head of UNAMA, he said all steps must be taken to safeguard media professionals and freedom of expression against those who would use violence to impose their voice and views on others.
NATO’s Resolute Support also strongly condemned the attack. “By specifically targeting journalists, terrorists have proven once again they have no regard for Afghanistan’s people or future,” said Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, Resolute Support spokesman.
Attacks against civilians were a common tactic used by anti-government elements, he said, calling this willful disregard for human life the leading cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said: "Attacks aimed at crushing independent media organisations in Afghanistan are a direct assault on the very foundation of Afghan democracy - a free and open press."
CPJ's Asia program coordinator Bob Dietz said: "Today's killings not only underscore the vulnerability of the media in the country, but the fragility of Afghan security under which the media must operate.”
Dietz urged the Ashraf Ghani administration to seek out and prosecute the perpetrators of the crime as quickly as possible."
In a statement, the Taliban called the bombing "revenge" for false allegations against the group. The statement explicitly listed TOLO TV as a target for allegedly serving as information warfare tool of the American forces.
Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said all media organisations were under threat. "Journalists are targeted throughout the world but now entire news organizations are threatened by large-scale attacks."
RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said: "Jihadists are among press freedom's worst predators … We call on the Afghan authorities to assign all available resources to catching those responsible for this bombing as quickly as possible."
The Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) also condemned the attack. "The journalist community is shocked at hearing this sad news. AIJA extends condolences to the victims’ famlies."
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