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Afghanistan: Journalist Murdered in Helmand

Elyas Daye Among Many in Media Facing Increased Taliban Threats

(New York) – An improvised explosive device (IED) attached to the car of Elyas Dayee, a reporter with Azadi Radio, exploded and killed him on November 11, 2020 in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, Human Rights Watch said today.

Although the Taliban have not issued any statement about the attack, Dayee had recently told Human Rights Watch that he had received numerous death threats warning him to stop his reporting on Taliban military operations. The Taliban frequently uses IEDs to carry out targeted attacks on civilians, which are war crimes.

“The killing of Elyas Dayee simply for doing his job sends a chilling message to the Afghan media that reporting on the Taliban puts them in grave danger,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This brutal killing of a journalist is nothing more than a cold-blooded execution and raises serious doubts about the protection of free expression in any peace deal with the Taliban.”

Dayee is one of dozens of Afghan journalists who in recent months have increasingly received threats from the Taliban. Many have told Human Rights Watch that they had also been warned not to report on Taliban activities.

Journalists who knew Dayee, 33, said that in the weeks before the attack, the Taliban had searched Dayee’s house, questioned him about his movements, and asked local residents to report on his behavior. The night before he was killed, Dayee had emailed a colleague saying he believed his life was in danger.

Dayee had told colleagues that, in October, the Taliban had explicitly warned him not to report on the Taliban’s recent operations in Helmand province or on any loss of territory or deaths of Taliban fighters, or to suggest that the Taliban were violating the agreement with the United States on the terms of the US withdrawal.

On November 12, the Taliban issued a statement accusing the Afghan media of engaging in “enemy propaganda” and defamation against the Taliban.

Residents of Taliban-held areas have long expressed fear of retaliation if they complain about the way Taliban forces carry out military operations or enforce restrictions. In a report released in June, Human Rights Watch said the Taliban have imposed severe restrictions in areas under their control despite claims of reform, and have placed severe limits on freedom of expression and the media.

The Taliban assert that they hold commanders and other authorities accountable for abuses, but Taliban officials have seldom considered practices amounting to war crimes, including unlawful attacks on civilians, to be wrongful acts.

The Taliban should immediately cease all threats and attacks on the media, and all acts of intimidation, harassment, and summary punishment of residents who have criticized Taliban policies, Human Rights Watch said. Countries supporting the Afghan peace negotiations in Doha should condemn these attacks and press the Taliban to publicly commit to ending all attacks on the media and to uphold freedom of expression in any settlement.

“The Taliban appear emboldened by the peace talks to commit deadly abuses without fear of being held accountable,” Gossman said. “Countries supporting the talks need to press for effective protections for the media throughout Afghanistan.”

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