A car bomb explosion killed journalist Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, a reporter with Azadi Radio on November 11, in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.
Before his death, Dayee had recently told Human Rights Watch that he had received numerous death threats warning him to stop his reporting on Taliban military operations.
Although they have not issued any statement about the attack, the Taliban frequently uses improvised explosive device (IED) to carry out targeted attacks on civilians, which are war crimes, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.
“The killing of Ilyas Dayee simply for doing his job sends a chilling message to the Afghan media that reporting on the Taliban puts them in grave danger,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“This brutal killing of a journalist is nothing more than a cold-blooded execution and raises serious doubts about the protection of free expression in any peace deal with the Taliban.”
Dayee is one of dozens of Afghan journalists who in recent months have increasingly received threats from the Taliban warning them not to report on their activities.
In the weeks before the attack, the Taliban had searched Dayee’s house, questioned him about his movements, and asked local residents to report on his behaviour. The night before he was killed, Dayee had emailed a colleague saying he believed his life was in danger.
Dayee had told colleagues that, in October, the Taliban had explicitly warned him not to report on the Taliban’s recent operations in Helmand province or on any loss of territory or deaths of Taliban fighters, or to suggest that the Taliban were violating the agreement with the United States on the terms of the US withdrawal.
On November 12, the Taliban issued a statement accusing the Afghan media of engaging in “enemy propaganda” and defamation against the Taliban.
In a report released in June, the rights group said the Taliban have imposed severe restrictions in areas under their control despite claims of reform, and have placed severe limits on freedom of expression and the media.
The Taliban assert that they hold commanders and other authorities accountable for abuses, but Taliban officials have seldom considered practices amounting to war crimes, including unlawful attacks on civilians, to be wrongful acts.
The Taliban should immediately cease all threats and attacks on the media, and all acts of intimidation, harassment, and summary punishment of residents who have criticized Taliban policies, Human Rights Watch said.
Countries supporting the Afghan peace negotiations in Doha should condemn these attacks and press the Taliban to publicly commit to ending all attacks on the media and to uphold freedom of expression in any settlement.
“The Taliban appear emboldened by the peace talks to commit deadly abuses without fear of being held accountable,” Gossman said. “Countries supporting the talks need to press for effective protections for the media throughout Afghanistan.” (Source: HRW)