Taliban fighters looking to exact revenge against journalists affiliated with Western media on Thursday shot dead the relative of an Afghan journalist for German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) who had left the country. They also injured another at his home in Western Afghanistan.
DW Director General Peter Limbourg has confirmed the vendetta and called on the German government to step up efforts to bring journalists working with Western media to safety.
“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 in a statement.
“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!”
DW has said it won’t reveal the name of the journalist or the location of his family “as their lives are still at risk.”
Limbourg added that the homes of at least three other Deutsche Welle reporters were searched by the Taliban in Afghanistan in recent days and weeks.
The Islamist militant movement had ensured it would allow free media during its first news conference on Tuesday after capturing the capital Kabul. But most Western media outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, have closed their bureaus and evacuated their reporters fearing that Taliban forces would go door to door, intimidating or even killing Western journalists.
The militants have made a cosmetic attempt to project a media-friendly and progressive image by allowing a female Afghan reporter on Tuesday to interview a Taliban spokesman on local news channel TOLO News, reportedly marking the first time an Afghan woman has conducted an interview with a senior Taliban official within the country.
The chief of the U.N. cultural agency, UNESCO, on Friday urged the Taliban to safeguard freedom of expression and safety of journalists in accordance with international obligations to which they have agreed.
“Access to reliable information and open public debate through free and independent media is essential for Afghans to live in the peaceful society they deserve,” said Audrey Azoulay.
“At this critical time, no one should be afraid to speak their mind, and the safety of all journalists, especially women, must be especially guaranteed,” she added.
But it’s clear that the Taliban intend to ban free press, just like they did when they were last in power between 1996 and 2001.