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Don’t kill the messenger

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The killing of the journalists is a dark, sad day for journalism and for the spirit of free flow of information

Picture: AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini

IT IS THE height of cynical irony that on Monday, three days before World Press Freedom Day tomorrow, a suicide bomber in the Afghan capital, Kabul, posing as a journalist killed nine real ones.

The killing of the journalists is a dark, sad day for journalism and for the spirit of free flow of information.

It is a deeply troubling trend when those who are neutral and whose only role is to bring the news to a wider audience are themselves targeted.

They had rushed to cover an initial blast caused by a motorcyclist who detonated explosives during rush hour in the Shash Darak area. Half an hour later, as journalists waited by a security cordon several hundred metres away from the first explosion, a second suicide bomber posing as a reporter blew himself up among them.

At least 29 people were killed and 49 wounded in the twin attacks claimed by the so-called Islamic State.

One of the nine, Shah Marai, had started on the bottom rung of the media ladder. Agence France-Presse said Marai had worked for the agency since 1996, when he started as a driver and fixer. He later became a photographer, then head photographer.

After the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001, Marai, who comes from the Shamali Plain north of Kabul, covered the country’s many upheavals.

Afghan TV network TOLOnews named other local journalists to fall in the line of duty as Maharram Durrani, Ebadullah Hananzai, Yar Mohammad Tokh, Ghazi Rasooli, Nowroz Ali Rajabi, Saleem Talash, Ali Saleemi, Sabawoon Kaka.

In a separate incident, Ahmad Shah, a reporter with the BBC in Afghanistan, was shot dead by unknown men in eastern Khost province, near the border with Pakistan, TOLOnews said.

Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous countries for media workers. It ranks 120th out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders (RWB) Press Freedom Index, and The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 35 journalists have been killed there since 1992.

RWB says in 15 years, 1035 journalists have been killed worldwide. Yet, an unfettered media, free of intimidation, is a vital tenet of democracy.