The Media Today

Afghanistan bombing ‘a deliberate attack’ on international journalism

May 1, 2018

A series of attacks in Afghanistan killed 10 journalists on Monday, in the deadliest day for the country’s media since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Nine journalists were killed in a suicide bombing that appeared to target the media in the capital city of Kabul, while a reporter for the BBC Afghan service was shot and died in the eastern province of Khost. Dozens of civilians were also killed.

According to Reporters Without Borders, an initial blast set off at a street checkpoint near the headquarters of Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency killed mostly ordinary civilians. A second suicide bomb was detonated half an hour later, after reporters had arrived on the scene. CNN reports that the suicide bomber was disguised as a TV cameraman. Six other journalists were injured in the explosion.

“These are all Afghan reporters that have been killed, but at least five are working directly for the international media,” the Committee to Protect Journalists Executive Director Joel Simon tells CJR. “So theses are the reporters who keep the world informed. This is not a local story; it’s not just about local news coverage in Afghanistan. This is a threat not just to the Afghan media, this is a threat to global media.”

Reporters Without Borders lists those killed in Kabul: ToloNews cameraman Yar Mohammad Tokhi, three Radio Azadai (Radio Free Europe) journalists (Ebadollah Hananzi, Sabvon Kakeker and Maharam Darani), two TV1 cameramen (Ghazi Rasoli and Norozali Rajabi, aka Khamoush), AFP photographer Shah Marai Fezi, Mashal TV reporter Salim Talash and Mashal TV cameraman Ali Salimi. The BBC’s Ahmed Shah, 29, was killed yesterday in Khost. BBC World Service Director Jamie Angus said Shah had been “respected and popular,” and called his death “a devastating loss.”

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The attacks also mark the deadliest day for journalists anywhere in the world since the January 2015 shootings at Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Nearly two decades into the American presence in Afghanistan, the national conversation in the States has largely turned away from the situation on the ground. Simons says that while the Afghan media has tremendous challenges, its press is “one of the most successful institutions to develop in Afghanistan.”

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News of the bombings drew attention to the challenges faced by journalists around the globe while many are looking inward. “We’re so focused on domestic issues—we’re debating endlessly what happened at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner—there’s just less space for international news, fewer resources, fewer bureaus,” Simon says. “Our ability to stay informed about global events depends on these networks of local journalists, who work with each other and keep the world informed. This was a deliberate attack on that system.”

Marai published a blog in 2016 detailing his time reporting in Afghanistan after the initial fall of the Taliban in 2001. The poignant final words of that post: “I have never felt life to have so little prospects and I don’t see a way out. It’s a time of anxiety.”


Other notable stories

  • Big scoop from The New York Times’s Matt Apuzzo and Michael Schmidt, who obtained a list of questions that Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to ask President Trump. The questions cover topics ranging from the July 2016 meeting in Trump tower to what Trump was thinking when he fired James Comey. According to Schmidt’s accompanying story, “the questions were read by the special counsel investigators to the president’s lawyers, who compiled them into a list. That document was provided to the Times by a person outside Mr. Trump’s legal team.”
  • Times Metro editor Wendell Jamieson resigned from the paper yesterday following an internal investigation. The Times refused to say what that investigation concerns, but Politico’s Michael Calderone reports that Executive Editor Dean Baquet told reporters it was not a journalism issue. As Calderone notes in his story, “The lack of transparency is also striking given the Times has aggressively covered workplace matters, including sexual harassment allegations, at media companies such as Vice Media and Fox News.”
  • CQ Roll Call Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Steve Komarow died Sunday. Komarow worked for the AP, USA Today, and Bloomberg as a foreign correspondent and newsroom leader before joining CQ Roll Call in 2015. Komarow “stood out for his unruffled approach to the most dramatic developments…and a cockeyed grin when confronted with the constant but mostly ephemeral melodramas of all four high-pressure newsrooms,” writes David Hawkins.
  • The AP’s Jill Colvin rightly notes that it has been more than a year since Donald Trump held the only solo press conference of his presidency. Though Trump has been willing to engage with reporters at pool sprays, Colvin writes that the format “gives the president far more control than he would have during a traditional question-and-answer session. Trump can easily ignore questions he doesn’t like and dodge follow-ups in a way that would be glaring in a traditional news conference.”
  • For CJR, Kayla Randall reports from the White House Correspondents’ Jam, where NBC’s Lester Holt plays bass in his band the night before the Correspondents’ Dinner.

ICYMI: The predictable outrage over the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.