The United Nations said at least 65 journalists and human rights activists have been killed in Afghanistan in the past three years in a series of targeted killings.
The UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan said in a report released on February 15 that the number includes 32 human rights defenders and 33 people working in the media.
The report, which tracked the killings from January 2018 to January 2021, comes with violence increasing as Taliban fighters step up their attacks on the government and other targets.
The report did not blame the Taliban specifically.
"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 Deborah Lyons, the secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan.
The mission said the attacks on journalists and media workers have had a chilling effect, prompting many to either self-censor or quit their jobs. Some have even fled the country in the pursuit of safety for themselves and their families.
Among those targeted in recent years was Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, a reporter with RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan. He waskilled in southern Helmand Province in November when a bomb attached to his vehicle exploded.
The internationally backed Afghan government and Taliban militants are engaged in slow-moving peace talks aimed at ending the country’s decades-old war, but daily attacks have continued, often blamed on the Taliban.
The report noted that from the beginning of the intra-Afghan talks in September until last month, the number of targeted killings increased, with 11 media workers and right activists being killed.