Journalists say Mazar bombing shows they’re ‘not safe’

The banner of an event that was held in Mazar-e-Sharif city on Saturday, March 11, to honor a number of journalists. Photo: Afghanistan Journalists Center

A day after an explosion at a cultural center in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, a group of journalists on Sunday said the attack showed their community is not safe in Afghanistan, calling it an attack on freedom of speech in the country.

The blast happened at Tabyan Cultural Center on Saturday and left at least two people dead and almost 30 wounded, including 15 journalists.

Sources in Balkh said the Taliban has confiscated the phones of all journalists who were wounded in the bombing and have prevented some of them from returning home, despite them being cleared medically.

Sources said that a number of journalists who visited the journalists in hospital have been “detained” by the Taliban.

Head of a private media agency union, Aimal Zahir, said the relevant institutions need to ensure the safety of journalists against such incidents that happen in an already difficult working environment, which include Taliban restrictions and economic challenges.

“Journalists have been wounded in the Balkh bombing. We ask all relevant parties and the Taliban to avoid targeting journalists and ensure their safety,” he said.

“We condemn the attack on journalists in Mazar-e-Sharif and we call for the punishment of the perpetrators,” said Mohammad Yar Majroh, a journalist from Kandahar. “There is a need [for the Taliban] to pay attention to the safety of journalists.”

Two journalists who were slightly wounded in the bombing in Mazar-e-Sharif on Saturday. Photo: Afghanistan Journalists Center

A journalist in Nangarhar, Azizullah Aziz, also said that media workers, especially journalists, need to be supported and their safety should be ensured.

Nai, an organization supporting open media in Afghanistan, in a statement condemned the bombing and asked the Taliban to share the details of the incident with them.

“Over 15 people were wounded and two people were killed in Mazar-e-Sharif bombing. We expect relevant institutions to pay attention to the safety of journalists,” said Mohammad Zarif Karimi, head of Nai.

UN special rapporteur Richard Bennett in a tweet about Saturday’s bombing said the attack is “another blow to freedom of expression in Afghanistan.” He stressed the need for increased protection.

US special envoy Thomas West in a tweet said he was deeply saddened “by the terrorist attack on journalists at the Tabyan Cultural Centre.”

“We condemn these continued, senseless acts of violence. We believe in the resilience of the Afghan people and their capacity to rebound,” he said.

Afghanistan Journalists Center in a statement also called for a thorough probe into the incident and said journalists’ safety must be ensured.