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Wednesday 18 September 2019

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FILE: The site of suicide attack against a minibus carrying employees of Afghan TV channel TOLO which killed seven in Kabul in January 2016.

KABUL -- Two people were killed and at least three others wounded in a blast targeting media workers in Kabul, Afghan officials say.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said that a magnetic explosive device attached to a bus carrying employees of the Afghan television station Khurshid TV blew up during the evening rush hour on August 4.

The bus driver and a pedestrian were killed, Rahimi said, while two Khurshid TV employees and a second passerby were wounded in the blast.

Samiullah Aminy, the news director with Khurshid TV, confirmed that a cameraman and an audio presenter were wounded.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Taliban and Islamic State militant groups are active in the Afghan capital. They have both attacked reporters in the past over what the militants view as biased or negative coverage.

In June, the Taliban warned it would target Afghan media organizations if they did continued broadcasting anti-Taliban announcements paid for by the government.

"We don't broadcast anti-Taliban advertisements but it is clear that freedom of expression is under constant threat in Afghanistan," Aminy said.

President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack, writing in a tweet: "Deliberately targeting media and civilians is a war crime and those responsible will be held accountable."

Afghanistan was the deadliest country in the world to be a journalist in 2018, with at least 13 deaths.

Violence in Afghanistan has spiked in recent weeks as both Afghan forces and Taliban militants attempt to increase their leverage in ongoing peace talks.

U.S. and Taliban negotiators began an eighth round of peace talks in Qatar on August 3.

More than 1,500 civilians were killed or woundedin Afghanistan's conflict last month -- the highest figure since May 2017, according to the United Nations United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

UNAMA says that 1,366 civilians were killed during the first six months of this year, a 21-percent decrease on the same period last year.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP

FILE: Pakistani journalists protest during the World Press Freedom Day in Hyderabad on May 3.

Watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warned of an “alarming decline” in the state of press freedom in Pakistan and called on Prime Minister Imran Khan to take urgent measures to address the situation.

RSF took issue with Khan’s recent statement during a trip to Washington that talking about curbs on press freedom in Pakistan was a "joke," outlining several recent incidents it says illustrate the deteriorating climate against a free press in the country.

“There is nothing funny about this “joke” for journalists in your country,” the statement, dated July 31, said.

“It is clear that either you are very poorly informed, in which case you should urgently replace the people around you, or you are knowingly concealing the facts, which is very serious, given your responsibilities,” it added.
https://rsf.org/en/news/after-year-press-freedom-violations-rsf-writes-pakistans-premier

Khan came to power after elections in 2018 accusing senior officials of large-scale corruption and mismanagement of Pakistan's economy.

But he has since been criticized for failing to keep the military from restricting press freedoms.

Most recently, Pakistan's most popular TV station, Geo News, was abruptly forced off the air in many parts of the country on July 21, just hours before Khan and a high-level delegation that included senior Pakistani army and intelligence officials, landed in Washington for talks with U.S. officials. https://www.rferl.org/a/pakistan-s-most-popular-tv-station-forced-off-air-amid-crackdown-on-free-media/30069555.html

The move was condemned by international media watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which in a September report said that the climate for press freedom in Pakistan was under pressure as the country's powerful army "quietly, but effectively" restricts reporting through "intimidation" and other means.

The Pakistani army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the military's notorious spy wing, play a major role in domestic and foreign affairs in the South Asian country of some 212 million people.

“In the light of this recent surge in press freedom violations…you will appreciate that to talk of ‘one of the freest presses in the world’ is clearly tantamount to an obscenity,” the RSF statement, signed by its Secretary General Christophe Deloire, said.

“We therefore urge your government to allow Pakistan’s journalists to exercise their profession in complete safety and with complete independence, as envisaged in article 19 of the 1973 constitution. The credibility of the Pakistani state and democracy is at stake,” he added.

Pakistan ranked 142 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

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