Journalists and their families are in grave danger in Afghanistan. The Taliban have no compunction about carrying out targeted killings as the case of a DW journalist shows.
Taliban fighters hunting a DW journalist have shot dead one member of his family and seriously injured another. The Taliban were conducting a house-to-house search to try and find the journalist, who now works in Germany.
Other relatives were able to escape at the last moment and are now on the run. DW Director General Peter Limbourg issued a strong condemnation and called on the German government to take action.
“The killing of a close relative of one of our editors by the Taliban yesterday is inconceivably tragic, and testifies to the acute danger in which all our employees and their families in Afghanistan find themselves,” Limbourg said. “It is evident that the Taliban are already carrying out organized searches for journalists, both in Kabul and in the provinces. We are running out of time!”
Taliban hunting journalists
The Taliban have raided the homes of at least three DW journalists. Nematullah Hemat of the private television station Ghargasht TV is believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban, and Toofan Omar, the head of the private radio station Paktia Ghag Radio, was, according to government officials, targeted and shot dead by Taliban fighters.
Two men, also presumably Taliban, shot and killed the translator Amdadullah Hamdard, a frequent contributor to Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper, on August 2 in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, right there on the street. And a month ago, the world-renowned Indian photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner Danish Siddiqui died in Kandahar, presumably killed by Taliban militants.
Media alliance calls on German government for help
Consequently, DW has joined the Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV), Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, Deutschlandradio, dpa, Reporters Without Borders, stern, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, taz, RTL, n-tv and Arte in publishing an open letter calling on the German government to set up an emergency visa program for Afghan staff.
The German Journalists’ Association (DJV) is also calling on the German government to take swift action, given that stringers who worked for Western media are now being hunted down. “Germany must not stand idly by while our colleagues are persecuted and even murdered,” said Frank Überall, the DJV chairman. He said that saving these journalists right now and offering them refuge in Germany was absolutely essential.
Taliban promises ring hollow
At a first press conference, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wanted to reassure the international community, striking a conciliatory tone and insisting that women would be allowed to work.
“Let me remind you that we forgive everyone, because it is in the interest of peace and stability in Afghanistan. All the groups that were confronting us are all forgiven,” he claimed.
But the Taliban have already clearly demonstrated what these statements are worth. The organization Reporters Without Borders has therefore called on the UN Security Council to hold an informal special session to address the perilous situation of journalists in Afghanistan.