Taliban and Islamic State treat media as targets

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(London Post)  Reporters Without Borders condemns the latest threats and attacks against media outlets by armed groups in Afghanistan.

The Taliban issued a statement yesterday proclaiming Afghanistan’s two leading privately-owned TV stations to be “military targets” while Islamic State detonated a homemade bomb outside two radio stations in Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern province of Nangarhar, on 10 October.

In yesterday’s communiqué from the “Military Commission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the Taliban said: “From now on we regard Tolo TV and 1TV as military targets and not as news media (…) There will be no immunity from our attacks, either for the personnel (presenter, reporters or crews) or for the buildings themselves.”

The statement said the decision was prompted by the TV stations’ coverage of the three-day Taliban occupation of the northern city of Kunduz. Like other media, Tolo TV and 1TV reported acts of rape and looting by Taliban fighters during the occupation – reports confirmed by the United Nations, international NGOs and other sources. At the same time, the Taliban destroyed 12 media outlets and forced more than 20 journalists to flee the city.

We again caution all parties to the conflict, both the Afghan state and non-stateactors, 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.”

The target of the Islamic State attack in Jalalabad on the night of 10 October was the building that houses Radio Safa, a local station, and the regional office of Radio Killid. 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 Islamic State’s 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 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 Islamic State. 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.

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