South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in The New York Times on Sep. 17:

An Afghan woman has become the seventh journalist killed in Afghanistan so far this year, an Afghan media group said Wednesday, adding to a toll that has already made 2014 by far the deadliest year for the news media here since the fall of the Taliban.

Palwasha Tokhi, who worked for Bayan Radio in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, was called out of her home purportedly to receive a wedding invitation from a visitor Tuesday night. (Wedding invitations are typically delivered by hand in Afghanistan.)

She was then stabbed to death by the visitor, who fled, according to Hafizullah Majidi, the head of Bayan Radio. Ms. Tokhi had just returned to Afghanistan after earning her master’s degree in Thailand.

A spokesman for the police in Mazar-i-Sharif confirmed the killing and said an investigation was underway.

The year before, three journalists were killed in Afghanistan, and two in 2012. Violence tends to increase during election years in Afghanistan, and in the previous presidential election year, 2009, three journalists were killed.

Ms. Tokhi was the second radio journalist killed in Mazar-i-Sharif this year. Most of the killings of Afghan journalists have taken place in the provinces, and most killings are also unsolved.

“Since 2001, more than 40 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan, and none of the cases have been followed by the judicial system of Afghanistan,” said Abdul Mujeeb Khelwatgar, executive director of Nai. “This has made all the people behind the killings and violence against journalists brave enough to think they could do anything against journalists.”

Mr. Khelwatgar said that Afghanistan’s journalists had improved professionally, which has made them more likely to undertake investigative reporting and report on corruption, angering powerful local figures. And the withdrawal of American and NATO forces from much of the country has also emboldened would-be attackers of journalists, he said.

Journalists are generally more likely to be attacked by pro-government than by antigovernment forces, according to Nai’s data.

This year, two of the journalists’ killings were committed by insurgents, one by the police and the rest by unknown killers in government-controlled areas.

Anja Niedringhaus, an Associated Press photographer and German citizen, was shot and killed by a police officer, who also severely wounded a reporter colleague, Kathy Gannon, a Canadian, in Khost. They had been covering the election this year. In Helmand, a reporter with the radio broadcaster Bost,Noor Ahmad Noori, was killed in January; the police claimed that it was a family dispute. Mr. Noor had previously worked for The New York Times in Helmand.

A little-known insurgent group took responsibility for the killing of a journalist for Radio Sweden, Nils Horner, who was shot in March on a street in Wazir Akbar Khan, the diplomatic quarter of Kabul, in the middle of the day. And the Taliban said their insurgents had carried out a suicide attack on the luxury Serena Hotel, in which the Afghan journalist Sardar Ahmadwas killed, along with most of his family, also in March.