AT News

KABUL: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) formally asked International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to investigate murders of journalists and media workers in Afghanistan since March 2020, since when 11 have been murdered.

RSF is asking Bensouda to investigate these murders – which could be regarded as war crimes – under article 15 of the ICC’s Rome statute, the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

The latest media victims were three women working for Enekaas TV in the eastern city of Jalalabad, who were gunned down while on their way home on 2 March. Before that, Voice of Ghor radio station director Besmellah Adel Imaq was shot dead as he was returning home in Firoz Koh, the capital of the central province of Ghor, on 1 January.

Imaq was fifth media worker to be killed in the space of two months. The others were Mohammad Aliyas Dayee of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Pashto-language service, who was murdered in Lashkargah on 12 November; Malalai Maiwand, a TV presenter and representative of the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ), and her driver Taher Khan, who were murdered in Jalalabad on 10 December; and Rahmatollah Nekzad, a reporter for international media, who was gunned down in Ghazni on 21 December.

All of these journalists and media workers were targeted because of their work amid an armed conflict that has seen an increase in violence against journalists and civil society in general since early 2020. RSF has every reason to believe that armed groups, especially the Taliban or Taliban affiliates, are responsible for this wave of killings.

RSF has asked the ICC’s chief prosecutor to include these murders in the crimes committed in Afghanistan since 2003 that she was authorized to investigate by the ICC’s Appeals Chamber in March 2020. With a view to prosecuting those responsible, RSF has asked her to determine whether they should be treated as war crimes or as another category of crimes defined by the ICC’s Rome Statute, such as crimes against humanity.

Journalists have been paying a high price in Afghanistan ever since the United States and its allies invaded and toppled the Taliban government in 2001. At least 100 journalists, including 15 international journalists, have been killed in connection with their work in the past 20 years, while more than 60 media outlets have been destroyed or attacked and hundreds of threats have been made against journalists and media.

Afghanistan is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.