Elyas Dayee, a radio journalist working in Afghanistan, was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) attached to his car on Wednesday 11th November, Human Rights Watch (HRW) have reported. According to Voice of America, Dayee was killed when a “magnetic” explosive device, attached to his car, was detonated as he travelled with his brother to the press club in Helmand’s provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, it is highly likely that the Taliban orchestrated the attack as the group had been threatening Dayee for some time in an attempt to prevent him reporting, Al Jazeera has said.
Omer Zwak, a spokesperson for the provincial governor in Helmand Province, speaking to Al Jazeera, claimed that the explosion also wounded three others, including Dayee’s brother. Dayee had been reporting for over a decade in Afghanistan for the US Government’s Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Afghan Service, Radio Azadi, which is said to reach more than 60% of the Afghan population, according to Voice of America. Dayee’s murder has brought with it a surge of denunciations from within Afghanistan and around the world, with high level individuals, such as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the US ambassador in Kabul, condemning the killings and defending the freedom of the press.
The killing, which comes only four days after Afghan journalist and former television presenter, Yama Siawash, was murdered by a bomb in Kabul, is a pressing reminder of the rising dangers faced by journalists in Afghanistan. Mohammad Saber Fahim, freelance journalist and long-time friend of Dayee, whilst speaking to France 24, talked of a growing environment of fear for journalists in Afghanistan, given the recent increase in attacks. This has led some to argue that mere condemnation from high-ranking officials is failing to do enough to protect journalists. According to Al Jazeera, the Afghan Journalist Safety Committee (AJSC) have called on the government to “take serious measures towards safety of journalists” and have asked for an investigation into the killing of Elyas Dayee. Clearly greater efforts must be made by the Afghan Government and the international community to protect journalists in Afghanistan, and to avoid press freedom from becoming another victim of the Taliban’s violent campaign.
Dayee was one of a growing number of journalists in Afghanistan who have been warned not to report on Taliban activities. HRW have said that in the weeks leading up to the attack, Dayee told friends and colleagues that his house had been searched by the Taliban and that he had received explicit warnings to not discuss their recent operations in Helmand Province. Although the Taliban have not explicitly accepted responsibility for the attack, they have repeatedly defamed and threatened journalists, and the day after Dayee’s killing they released a statement accusing the Afghan media of engaging in “enemy propaganda”, according to HRW. This all occurs under the shadow of peace talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban, currently being held in Doha.
The international community, and in particular those countries supporting peace negotiations in Doha, must do more to condemn this growing tide of violence against Afghan journalists. A free press, and the safety and security of journalists is a fundamental necessity in any fair and sustainable society. Greater efforts must be made to curb violence and insecurity in the country that risk further upsetting peace talks. A negotiated settlement between the Afghan Government and the Taliban may offer the only realistic prospect to peace in a country which has faced more than forty years of war. Attempts to de-rail it spells only trouble for the Afghan people.
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