A total of 65 journalists, media professionals and human rights defenders were killed in Afghanistan from January 01, 2018 to January 31, 2021, a new report issued on Monday by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) showed.
The period has witnessed a sharp and chilling number of killings of human rights defenders and media professionals in the country, with no fewer than 11 human rights defenders and media workers were killed in targeted attacks from the Sept. 12, 2020 start of The Afghanistan Peace Negotiations.
This trend, combined with the absence of claims of responsibility, has generated a climate of fear among the population.
Human rights and media space has contracted as a result, with many professionals exercising self-censorship in their work, quitting their jobs, and leaving their homes and communities with hopes it will improve their safety.
Many, including high profile personalities, have fled the country.
“The Afghan people need and deserve a flourishing civic space – a society where people can think, write and voice their views openly, without fear,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
“The voices of human rights defenders and the media are critical for any open and decent society. At a time when dialogue and an end to the conflict through talks and political settlement should be the focus, the voices from human rights and the media need to be heard more than ever before, instead they are being silenced,” said the envoy, who is also head of UNAMA.
“The killings have had the broader impact across society of also diminishing expectations around efforts towards peace”, Lyons added.
The special report Killings of Human Rights Defender and Media Professionals also documented “changing patterns” of attacks.
The most recent wave, that of intentional, premeditated and deliberate targeting of individuals with perpetrators remaining anonymous contrasts to previous years, UNAMA said.
In the past, such deaths were mainly as a result of proximity of individuals to attacks by organized armed groups, mainly the Islamic State in the Levant-Khorasan-Province (ISIL-KP), involving the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The report underscored the role of all actors in preventing such killings and intimidation, promoting accountability and preventing impunity.
It urged that investigations into killings must be independent, impartial, prompt, thorough, effective, credible and transparent, adding that the prosecution of suspected perpetrators should strictly follow due process and fair trial standards.
The report also called on the international community to continue to engage with rights defenders, journalists and media workers at risk and increase support to programs that provide security, travel, financial, capacity building and other assistance to them.
It also called on non-state actors to stop all killings of human rights defenders, journalists and media workers, in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law. (Source: UN News)