Violence Against Journalists Hits New Heights in 2014

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Afghanistan, Journalists, The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) on Thursday reported that violence against journalists in Afghanistan is more common now than it ever was over the past decade. The group also claimed the majority of the violence was being committed by employees of the government.

In an open letter to President Hamid Karzai, AJSC called for more efforts to prevent violence against journalists, which they said undermines the freedom of press in Afghanistan.

In response, the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC) has announced the formation of a special commission to combat violence against journalists. Yet it is unclear just how effective such a commission can be so long as much of the violence is being committed by government personnel, as AJSC maintains. 
 
“The interesting issue is that the majority of violence has been committed by government employees,” AJSC head Najib Sharifi said on Thursday.
 
AJSC has said that at least five journalists have been killed by violence in 2014, with a total 18 percent increase of violence against journalists from 2013. Reportedly, 62 percent of the recorded violence has been committed by government employees.
 
In its open letter to President Karzai, AJSC demands the president add the following items to the country’s mass media law:
 
1.       The government is obligated to undertake necessary measures to ensure the safety of journalists
2.       The government is obligated to identify and prosecute those involved in violence against journalists
3.       The government is obligated to provide awareness to government employees regarding the rights of the journalists
 
“In the present law, there is a single article about the responsibility to preserve a safe environment for journalists, so we have recommended the government add the three items to the media law,” the head of AJSC said.
 
The Ministry of Information and Culture seems to think the government’s commission to combat violence against journalists will be enough, making additions to the media law unnecessary. Ministry officials said the commission would investigate cases of violence against journalists and prosecute those thought to be responsible. 
 
“The president issued an order in this respect a month ago and the commission has held its first meeting,” Ministry advisor Jalal Noorani said. “Members of the commission have decided to act upon every case of violence and seek a logical way to eliminate violence against journalists.”

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