Friday, September 11, 2009

The killing of a Journalist is a threat to freedom of speech, freedom of the media and civil rights in Afghanistan

On September 9th Mr. Sultan Manadi, a committed Journalist and former colleague of the Civil Society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN), was killed during a military rescue operation by foreign forces in Kondoz province of Afghanistan. Sultan Manadi and Stephen Farrell, a British national journalist, were kidnapped by Taliban militants from Essa Khel village of Chahar Dara district last Saturday. The reporters were in the district in order to ascertain information about a deadly NATO air strike that had killed about 95 people and wounded several others on Friday September 4 th.
The killing of Sultan has shocked civil society, Afghan intellectuals and the human rights community in Afghanistan . Sultan's killing indicates a lack of commitment on the part of the Afghan government to its citizens who work for civil freedom, the expansion of which has been one of the main achievements in Afghanistan during the post-Taliban period. Why the Afghan government forces could not rescue Sultan is the self-evident question posed by the Afghan Civil Society, which has so far been left unanswered.
In releasing this statement, CSHRN would like to emphasize the following points.
- The Afghan constitution clearly emphasizes the role and responsibility of the government and President to protect Afghan citizens' human rights. Afghanistan is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights. Effective protection of the human rights of Afghani citizens is the responsibility of the Afghan state. CSHRN would like to urge the Afghan government to take is human rights protection responsibilities seriously, to organize an enquiry into the killing of Sultan and to effectively prevent acts of violence such as this one from occurring again in the future.
- This is not the first time that Afghani civil society and journalists associations have asked the government to organize proper investigations to identify the reasons for the murders of journalists. A series of horrible killings of Afghan journalists carried out by international forces and insurgents during the ongoing military operations have not been investigated. CSHRN calls on the Afghan government in general, and it's investigative, justice and security sectors specifically, to put in place a mechanism capable of effectively investigating the killing of Sultan.
- CSHRN calls on the new government and President, who will start working after the election, to pay special attention to the provision of useful strategies for protection of the rights of journalists and human rights defenders.
- CSHRN would like to ask the new leader and government of Afghanistan to organize a constructive dialogue with those governments and international organizations which are involved in the security of Afghanistan . International forces must respect human rights of the Afghan citizens equally to those of their own citizens, according to Universal Declaration of Human Rights. NATO and ISAF forces should treat Afghan citizens, especially victims who are captured by Taliban, without discrimination during their operations.
CSHRN will closely follow the government's response to the matters raised in this statement and will react accordingly.

Afghan Civil Society Human Rights Network

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Freed NYT Reporter Reminds Us of Dangers of Real Journalism

Stephen Farrell with Manadi in a Hospital

Yet it havn't either past two days from relese of Mr Parwiz Kambakhsh from prison, another tragedy has accured in Afghanistan which took the life of Afghan journalist in northern Afghanistan.

British commandos freed a New York Times reporter in an early Wednesday raid on a Taliban hide-out in northern Afghanistan. At least five people were killed in the rescue, including the journalist's Afghan translator who was Journalism student in Germany is killed too, one of the troops, officials said.
Reporter Stephen Farrell was taken hostage Saturday along with his Afghan journalist in the northern province of Kunduz when they went to cover a German-ordered airstrike of two hijacked fuel tankers. The bombing, carried out by U.S. jets, caused a number of civilian casualties.
Gunfire rang out from multiple sides during the rescue, and a British service member and Farrell's Afghan translator journalist, Sultan Munadi, 34, were killed. Farrell was unhurt.
A British defense official said he couldn't rule out the possibility Munadi was killed by British gunfire. The family buried Munadi's body late Wednesday without having the body examined to help determine if British bullets or Taliban gunfire killed him.
A Taliban commander in the house where the raid took place, the owner of the house and a woman were also among the dead, said Mohammad Sami Yowar, a spokesman for the Kunduz governor.
Afghan officials over the weekend said about 70 people died when U.S. jets dropped two bombs on the tankers, igniting them in a massive explosion. There were reports that villagers who had come to collect fuel from the tankers were among the dead, and Farrell wanted to interview villagers.
The Times reported that while Farrell and Munadi were talking to Afghans near the site of the bombing, an old man approached them and warned them to leave. Soon after, gunshots rang out and people shouted that the Taliban were approaching.
Police had warned reporters who traveled to the capital of Kunduz to cover the tanker strike that the village in question was controlled by the Taliban, and it would be dangerous to go there.
The Times kept the kidnappings quiet out of concern for the men's safety, and other media outlets, including The Associated Press, did not report the abductions following a request from the Times.
A story posted on the Times' Web site quoted Farrell as saying he had been "extracted" by a commando raid carried out by "a lot of soldiers" in a firefight.
British special forces dropped from helicopters early Wednesday onto the house where the two were being kept, and a gunbattle broke out, Yowar said.
Farrell, 46, a dual Irish-British citizen, told the Times that he saw Munadi step forward shouting "Journalist! Journalist!" but he then fell in a volley of bullets. Farrell said he did not know if the shots came from militants or the rescuing forces.
"I dived in a ditch," said Farrell. Moments later, he said he heard British voices and shouted, "British hostage!" The British voices told him to come over. As he did, Farrell said he saw Munadi.
"He was lying in the same position as he fell," Farrell told the Times. "That's all I know. I saw him go down in front of me. He did not move. He's dead. He was so close, he was just two feet in front of me when he dropped."
A British defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the incident, said he was not able to rule out the possibility that Munadi was killed by soldiers carrying out the rescue mission amid a fierce firefight with the journalists' captors.
"All reports of civilian fatalities are always investigated thoroughly," Britain's defense ministry said in a statement.
A top NATO and U.S. military spokesman, Col. Wayne Shanks, said he did not know if the military would also investigate which side fired the bullets.
New York Times executive editor Bill Keller said he had understood from the military that they did not intend to conduct a raid unless the situation turned "particularly menacing, and they had actionable intelligence and a high probability of success."
Keller said he doesn't know what triggered the decision to carry out the raid, but that Farrell told him the situation had turned "menacing." Keller said it was possible the militants may have planned to move the hostages and said he would not second guess the military's decision to take action.
A spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jessica Barry, said the group had been "in contact with different parties" to urge for the journalists' unconditional release.
The British prime minister said the operation was carried out after "extensive planning and consideration" and that those involved knew the high risks they faced. Brown called the mission "breathtaking heroism."
"As we all know, and as last night once again demonstrated, our armed forces have the skill and courage to act. They are truly the finest among us, and all of us in Britain pay tribute to them, and to the families and communities who sustain them in their awesome responsibilities," Brown said.
Several Western reporters have been kidnapped in Afghanistan in the last several years, mostly while traveling in dangerous districts but also in and around Kabul. Kidnappings by the Taliban are often for ideological reasons, though kidnappings by criminals are done for ransom payments.
At least 16 Afghan and foreign journalists have been kidnapped in Afghanistan since January 2002, according to Reporters Without Borders. Canadian journalist Mellissa Fung and a Dutch reporter were kidnapped separately in or near Kabul last fall. Ransom was demanded in both cases and both were released within a month.
An American working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was abducted in August 2008 and held near Kabul for two months before being freed by U.S. Special Forces. The troops staged a nighttime raid on the captors' hideaway in October, the first known hostage rescue by American forces in Afghanistan.
Munadi was first employed by The New York Times in 2002, according to his colleagues. He left the company a few years later to work for a local radio station.
He was in Afghanistan on vacation from a master's program in Germany when he agreed to accompany Farrell to Kunduz on a freelance basis. He was married and had two young sons.
In a New York Times Web blog this month, Munadi wrote that he would never leave Afghanistan permanently and that "being a journalist is not enough; it will not solve the problems of Afghanistan. I want to work for the education of the country, because the majority of people are illiterate."
"And if I leave this country, if other people like me leave this country, who will come to Afghanistan?" he wrote.
Farrell joined the Times in 2007 in Baghdad. He has covered both the Afghan and Iraq conflicts for the paper.
He was briefly held hostage with an American journalist traveling in Iraq in 2004, when he was working for The Times of London. Militants questioned them for about seven hours before letting them go, he said afterward.
Farrell was the second Times journalist to be kidnapped in Afghanistan in a year.
In June, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Rohde and his Afghan colleague Tahir Ludin escaped from their Taliban captors in northwestern Pakistan. They had been abducted Nov. 10 south of Kabul and were moved across the border.
Keller said that reporters in the field are allowed a great deal of leeway, and that they are the best ones to judge the level of risk but that the Times would carry out a security review after the latest abduction.
Associated Press reporters Heidi Vogt in Kabul, David Stringer in London and Deepti Hajela in New York contributed to this report.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

NYT reporter, interpreter kidnapped in Kunduz Afghanistan

Taliban insurgents have kidnapped a foreign journalist associated with The New York Times in Chahar Dara district of northern Kunduz province, the governor said on Saturday.

Engineer Mohammad Omar told Pajhwok Afghan News they did not allow the reporter to visit the troubled district, where close to 100 people were killed in a NATO air strike on Friday.

But in defiance of government orders, the reporter went to Chahar Dara at his own risk. The governor added a Taliban commander named Mullah Abdur Rehman had abducted the British national along with an Afghan interpreter.

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers found the reporter's vehicle during a search operation in the area. The journalist wanted to visit the area where the oil tankers hijacked by insurgents were struck. Residents say 150 locals were killed in the air raid

Kunduz air strike killed 95 civilians....

Ninety-five people including dozens of civilians were killed and many others injured on Friday when NATO aircraft struck oil tankers hijacked by Taliban insurgents in Chahar Dara district of northern Kunduz province.
Kunduz Governor Eng. Mohammad Omar told Pajhwok Afghan News a Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Rahman, was among 45 insurgents killed in the incident that occurred in Haji Aman village of the restive district.
The International Security Assistance Force confirmed the air strike was carried out early this morning against a large number of insurgents after the Kunduz Operational Command Centre reported that two fuel trucks were stolen by insurgents.
Addressing a news conference, the provincial police chief said 65 guerrillas were killed in a huge explosion at the tanker after the NATO strike. The bombing came as militants and villagers emptied oil from the tanker into jerry canes.
Brig. Gen. Abdul Razaq Yaqubi told journalists more than a dozen Taliban were wounded in the massive blast. He acknowledged ordinary residents were among the dead and injured. However, the police chief explained the exact civilian toll was yet to be ascertained.
In response to a query, Gen. Abdul Rehman said drivers of the tankers -- belonging to a private firm -- were beheaded. Residents of Panjsher and Ghorband (Parwan), their headless bodies have been handed over to their kin, according to the police chief.
In a statement on its website, the NATO-led force said a local ISAF commander allowed the air raid after observing the insurgent activity and assessing civilians were not in the area. "A large number of insurgents were reported killed or injured and the fuel trucks were destroyed in the attack."
However, the 42-nation force later received reports that civilians were killed and injured in the air strike and "in conjunction with Afghan officials is now conducting an investigation into the claims."
The governor said the Taliban fighters hijacked two oil tankers carrying aircraft fuel for NATO forces from the Kunduz-Baghlan Highway. The militants were distributing fuel for free when the raid took place.

But a security official, seeking anonymity, said the death toll was more than 200. He claimed warplanes struck the people who had gathered to receive free oil distributed by the hijackers. The official would not give further details.
A dweller of the village, Noorullah, said one of his relatives was killed and another injured in the bombardment. Without giving evidence, he claimed the bombardment left 400 dead and wounded. Most of the injured were badly burnt, he said.
Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected the gubernatorial assertion as false. The rebels suffered no casualties in the raid, he insisted, suggesting the dead were ordinary residents.

Director of Kunduz Civil Hospital, Humayun Khamosh said 15 wounded people were brought to hospital. Some of those hospitalised were writhing in pain, their skin peeling off as a result of the burns.
Statement by the Deputy UN Special Representative, Peter Galbraith on Kunduz airstrike Kabul, 4 September 2009 - I am very concerned by the reports we have seen this morning of casualties among civilians from an air strike against stolen trucks in Aliabad district of Kunduz province.As an immediate priority, everything possible must be done to ensure that people wounded by this attack are being properly cared for, and that families of the deceased are getting all the help they need.Steps must also be taken to examine what happened and why an air strike was employed in circumstances where it was hard to determine with certainty that civilians were not present. UNAMA is sending a team to look into the situation.