US ‘stands by’ Afghans after deadly day for journalists

Updated May 02, 2018

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KABUL: Friends and relatives of AFP Afghanistan Chief Photographer Shah Marai Faizi gather at his burial site in Gul Dara after his death in the second of two bombings that occurred in the Afghan capital.—AFP
KABUL: Friends and relatives of AFP Afghanistan Chief Photographer Shah Marai Faizi gather at his burial site in Gul Dara after his death in the second of two bombings that occurred in the Afghan capital.—AFP

WASHINGTON: Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday the US would stand by the Afghan people and the Kabul government, a day after attacks killed dozens of people including 10 journalists.

“The murder of journalists and other innocent people is a great testimony to what it is we stand for, and more importantly what we stand against,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

“We’ll stand by the Afghan people, we’ll stand by the Afghan government and the Nato mission will continue as we drive them to a political settlement,” he added.

The Pentagon chief had earlier said that weakened militants were targeting journalists in Afghanistan in order to undermine the electoral process ahead of an expected vote in October.

Monday’s bloodshed saw a double suicide blast in Kabul that left 25 people dead including AFP’s chief Afghanistan photographer Shah Marai and eight other journalists.

The so-called Islamic State group, which has dramatically stepped up its attacks in Kabul in recent months, claimed the attack. A separate shooting in eastern Khost province killed a BBC reporter.

“We anticipated and are doing our best and have been successful at blocking many of these attacks on innocent people, but unfortunately once in a while they get through,” Mattis said as he greeted Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Radmila Sekerinska.

“This is simply what they do: They murder innocent people.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also condemned the “senseless and barbaric attack”. He said the work of those journalists who died “helped lay the foundation for Afghanistan’s thriving and resilient independent media”.

As the Pentagon asserts that Afghan troops and US-led Nato forces are making steady progress in the 16.5-year-old Afghanistan war, a US watchdog on Tuesday warned that the Taliban and other insurgent groups are gaining control over increasing numbers of the Afghan population and the strength of local security forces has declined sharply.—AFP

UN asked to appoint rep to protect journalists

An international media advocacy group asked the United Nations Secretary General on Tuesday to appoint a special representative for the protection of journalists after the latest attacks on media representatives in Afghanistan.

“We have formally referred this case to the United Nations Secretary General,” said Christophe Deloire, general secretary of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, which is better known by its French acronym RSF.

“It is high time that the UN sent a strong signal to the international community and to local protagonists by appointing a Special Representative for the protection of journalists,” Deloire added.

“Today marks one of the deadliest days on record for the media in Afghanistan and indeed around the world,” said Steve Butler, Asia Programme Coordinator for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Anthony Bellanger, general secretary of the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists noted that those targeted by the terrorists were “on duty to report about the earlier attack” and demanded “urgent action from the government to ensure justice for the slain journalists”. He also noted that governments across the world had “not done enough to ensure the safety of journalists”.

RSF noted that the double suicide-bombing in Kabul was the latest in an already long list of bloody attacks on media outlets and journalists, who have been “deliberately killed in cold blood in many countries because their reporting caused annoyance”.—BoC

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2018