In a statement issued by the IFJ on Tuesday, the organization’s General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “Afghanistan has descended again in terms of journalist safety in 2020 with at least eight media workers killed to date, up from six in 2019.
“The IFJ again implores that the Afghan government must increase its efforts to ensure the safety of journalists in this volatile space. “Too often journalists are the target, often between internal conflicts and the quest for power.
Journalists’ lives must be respected and defended,” Bellanger stated. The IFJ’s Afghanistan affiliate the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA) also condemned “the heinous assassination” and caled for swift action to locate and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The AIJA said: “AIJA strongly condemns the killing and call it a crime against humanity. AIJA shares empathy with his family and urges the Security forces to investigate the killing and bring the perpetrators to justice.” Nikzad, a reporter, photographer and chief of the Ghazni Journalists’ Union, was killed by unknown gunmen outside his home on Monday night.
According to the IFJ, Nikzad was shot three times in the chest with a pistol fitted with a silencer as he left his home to visit a local mosque. The gunmen have not yet been identified and no group has claimed responsibility. Nikzad, who was in his mid-40s, was a Ghazni resident and started working as a journalist in 2003.
He was associated with several international news outlets and worked on a freelance basis with Al Jazeera and Associated Press. Al Jazeera issued a statement on Twitter and strongly condemned the attack and attempts to silence journalists in the country and stated it was “shocked at the news of the killing of our cameraman Rahmatullah Nikzad, a former colleague who worked with our team in Afghanistan.”
The Taliban meanwhile were quick to distance themselves from the incident on Monday night.
Soon after news broke of Nikzad’s death, Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Taliban, stated they were not involved in the shooting. Mujahid said Nikzad was a committed journalist and had “maintained good relations” with the group. “We consider this killing a loss for the country,” he said. Nikzad is the third media worker to be killed in Afghanistan this month.
On December 10, female reporter Malala Maiwand, and her driver Mohammad Tahir, were shot and killed when assailants opened fire on their car while she was on her way to work in Jalalabad, in Nangarhar province.
IS (Daesh) claimed responsibility for the attack. On November 12, Radio Free Europe correspondent Elias Daei was killed in a targeted magnetic mine explosion in Lashkar Gah. However, the latest killing brings the total number of journalists killed in the past two months to five.