At least 10 journalists were killed in Afghanistan on Monday, making it the deadliest day on record for those in the field covering the country’s ongoing instability, according to rights groups.
A suicide bomber struck the Afghan capital outside the National Directorate of Security, killing at least 26 people. A second bomber then detonated explosives after reporters and photographers gathered at the scene, according to Reuters, killing nine journalists. The self-described Islamic State claimed responsibility for both.
A tenth journalist was shot dead that day in the country’s Khost province.
It’s believed that media workers were targeted, Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danesh told the news outlet, because the second suicide bomber accessed the area by showing police a press pass.
Several of the killed journalists worked for Afghan news outlets, the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee said, and Western outlets were also affected. Shah Marai, Agence France-Presse’s chief photographer in Kabul, died in the attack, the agency confirmed, as did two Radio Free Europe journalists and a third reporter who was slated to begin working for the outlet next month. The BBC verified that its reporter Ahmad Shah was killed in Khost province.
“This latest attack on journalists in Afghanistan is a reminder of the extreme dangers to media workers in that country and of the extremely brutal tactics used there by enemies of the free press,” Steven Butler, the Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement.
Before Monday, 35 journalists had been killed in the country since 1992, according to the CPJ. Although the AJSC’s estimates are much higher ― it says at least 80 journalists and media workers have died since 2001 ― it acknowledged that the recent attacks made it the country’s deadliest day for journalists.
It’s no secret that Afghanistan has long been a hostile environment for journalists, given insurgent groups’ history of targeting the media. Another journalist was shot dead last week on his way to work. In November, gunmen and suicide bombers attacked an Afghan television station. In 2016 a Taliban suicide bomber blew up a minibus carrying local journalists, killing seven.
Marai encapsulated the fear and despair that Afghans, especially journalists, deal with on a regular basis in an essay he wrote in 2016, published Monday by AFP:
There is no more hope. Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity. I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. Every morning as I go to the office and every evening when I return home, all I think of are cars that can be booby-trapped, or of suicide bombers coming out of a crowd. I can’t take the risk. So we don’t go out.