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UNAMA and Reporters Without Borders Condemn Taliban Threats

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unamaThe United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Tuesday expressed its serious concern at recent statements from the Taliban that identified specific Afghan media outlets and their staff as military targets.

In a statement issued by UNAMA, the organization urged all parties to the conflict to respect and protect the right to freedom of expression.

"The Military Commission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan issued a statement on 12 October (Monday) condemning the reporting of Tolo TV and 1TV, declaring that they consider these television channels to be targets and not legitimate media outlets," read the statement.

"Under international humanitarian law Afghan journalists are not participants in the conflicts they cover and do not lose their status as civilians. International humanitarian law explicitly prohibits attacks against civilians and acts or threats of violence aimed at terrorizing the civilian population. Additionally, journalists are protected under international human rights law, which protects the right to freedom of expression."

"The work of journalists is critical in providing independent and accurate information about the ongoing conflict. Journalists must be guaranteed the highest degree of protection by state and non-state actors," read the statement.

UNAMA statement comes after the Taliban on Monday issued strong threats against TOLO TV and 1TV claiming they now consider the TV channels as military targets.

In addition they issued death threats against all staff members and threatened to target the media organizations' facilities.

Reporters Without Borders meanwhile also strongly condemned the threats.

They said: "We again caution all parties to the conflict, both the Afghan state and non-state actors, and we remind them of their obligation to protect journalists," said Reza Moini, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Afghanistan desk.

"Attacks against civilian targets, including media outlets and journalists, constitute war crimes. From now on we will demand an explanation from the Taliban delegations abroad, including the Taliban office in Doha, for every Taliban attack on journalists and media outlets. The countries hosting or having relations with these delegations must firmly condemn this statement and use all possible means to prevent criminal acts by the Taliban against journalists and media outlets. Or else they will also be held responsible," read their statement.

The threats come after a bombing on Saturday night on the building that houses Radio Safa, a local station, and the regional office of Radio Killid in Jalalabad in Nangarhar province. The bomb destroyed the main door and part of a wall, but did not damage any equipment and both stations were able to continue operating.

"We have never had this kind of threat to our radio station," Radio Safa manager Ferdos Hazrati told Reporters Without Borders.

Killid Group CEO Najiba Ayubi said: "Prior to this attack, Radio Killid was subjected to harassment in the form of repeated phone calls with the aim of getting it to broadcast information about Daesh activities (...) The media cannot report unverifiable information, just as you cannot threaten and less still target media. Destroying independent media is not good for anyone."

Asking not to be identified, a Nangarhar province security official said: "Islamic State (Daesh) has begun pressuring the media to cover its activities in the region. Right after this attack, some media outlets received a call in which a person claiming to be an Islamic State spokesman said this was a warning."

It was the second attack on media outlets in Jalalabad to be claimed by Daesh. The regional bureaux of the independent Afghan news agency Pajhwok and the US government-funded Voice of America radio were the target of an attack on 12 June in which two VOA journalists were injured.