Written By: Ali Yaghoobi
Eight years and five months have passed since Zakia Zaki, manager and presenter of Sada-e-Solh (the Voice of Peace) local radio station, was riddled with seven bullets at her house in Jabal-ul-Saraj; however, no one has so far been prosecuted in relation to the crime. Same has been the destiny of almost another 50 cases where the criminals have brutally murdered journalists solely on charges of being disseminators of information or whistle blowers; yet, no one was prosecuted and none of the cases led to conviction.
Upon investigation of the causes of the escalation of violence against journalists in Afghanistan, we find out that impunity is the biggest factor behind such escalation of violence. A simple scrutiny of the data provided by media support organizations on cases of violence against journalists will lead to the conclusion that the culprits of the majority of cases of violence against journalists are known individuals and groups. Yet, no signs of prosecution of the perpetrators by law enforcement and judicial authorities can be seen in the horizon. It is therefore safe to say that this very attitude gives the criminals and the enemies of freedom of expression in Afghanistan extra courage to freely commit violence against journalists. A recent report released by CPJ expresses that impunity of perpetrators of violence against journalists in Afghanistan exists at concerning levels.
Violence against journalists has emerged as a global issue against freedom of expression. A recent UNESCO report indicates that the phenomenon of impunity from prosecution is on the rise with only 7% of the cases of violence against journalists so for addressed all over the world. Considering the importance of this issue, UNESCO proclaimed the 2nd day of November as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ hoping to use vast publicity to draw the world’s attention to this issue thereby harnessing its expansion. Also, in May 2015 The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution (resolution #2222) urging Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity. However, despite the increasing attention of the international human rights advocacy organizations to this issue, governments – including Afghan government – have so far largely failed to counter the presently rampant phenomenon of impunity.
In Afghanistan, the leaders of the current government signed a written commitment letter prior to election run-off phase pledging to instruct the law enforcement and judicial bodies to reopen and reinvestigate the cases of journalists’ murder, and to make every effort to punish the culprits of crimes against journalists. In one instance, the first vice president even ordered the Attorney General’s Office to reinvestigate such cases; however, despite all this, no progress was made in practice and the Afghan government continues to fail in this department. The Afghan government should know that it is one of the main addressees of November 2nd in the world.
Afghan journalists’ advocacy organizations have used every opportunity to advocate for the assassinated journalists as they are confident that journalists’ safety will not be ensured unless justice is served in regards to the culprits of crimes against journalists. They subscribe to the opinion that prosecution of the perpetrators of crimes against journalists will provide the sole guaranty for viability of the currently fragile freedom of expression in Afghanistan. These organizations enjoy support from journalists, civil society organizations and the international community. The international community should not leave Afghanistan alone along this path.