JERAA calls for urgent action to support Afghan journalists

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Al Jazeera Kabul
UNESCO has recorded five deaths of journalists in Afghanistan in 2021, making it the country with the world’s greatest number of journalists’ deaths this year. Four have been women, reflecting the higher risk of attacks on female journalists. Image: Al Jazeera English Live/Screenshot APR

Pacific Media Watch newsdesk

The Journalism Research and Education Association of Australia (JERAA) has urged the Australian government to make a strong commitment to supporting journalists and media personnel in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of international forces.

JERAA said in a statement today it had endorsed the calls of Australia’s Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) and International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) for urgent action to provide humanitarian visas and other support to those attempting to flee the country.

In the current upheaval, it is difficult to obtain figures on how many journalists have been attacked, but the Afghan Independent Journalist Association and Afghanistan’s National Journalists Union express grave concerns for the well-being of journalists and media personnel.

Nai, an Afghan organisation supporting independent media, released figures indicating that by late July, at least 30 media workers had been killed, wounded or tortured in Afghanistan since the beginning of 2021.

UNESCO has recorded five deaths of journalists in Afghanistan in 2021, making it the country with the world’s greatest number of journalists’ deaths this year. Four have been women, reflecting the higher risk of attacks on female journalists.

Current figures are likely to be incomplete due to the challenges of obtaining information. They do not include deaths of professionals in related industries, such as the murder of the Head of Afghan government Media and Information Centre on August 6.

The Taliban has a long-established pattern of striking out against journalists.

A Human Rights Watch report, released in April 2021, in the lead up to the United States and NATO troop withdrawal, noted that Taliban forces had already established a practice of targeting journalists and other media workers.

Journalists are intimidated, harassed and attacked routinely by the Taliban, which regularly accuses them of being aligned with the Afghan government or international military forces or being spies.

Female journalists face a higher level of threats, especially if they have appeared on television and radio.

International Press Institute figures, released in May 2021 at the start of the troop withdrawals, also showed that Afghanistan had the highest rate of deaths of journalists in the world.

The IPI expressed concern about an intensification of attacks on journalists and the future of the news media in Afghanistan.

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