The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and affiliate the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA) note the official media release from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan admitting that one of its soldiers, engaged in active combat operations, was responsible for the killing of journalist Ahmad Omaid Khpalwak.
According to the ISAF statement, Khpalwak, a journalist with the BBC Afghanistan service and the Pahjwok Afghan News agency, was shot dead during combat between U.S. army troops and armed insurgents who breached the compound of the state-owned Radio Television Afghanistan in Tarin Khot, Uruzgan province on July 28. Though he was unarmed, Khpalwak was assessed by a soldier to be firing at ISAF forces. Some of his movements were also read as suggesting intent to set off a suicide bomb.
“Khpalwak’s killing highlights the dangers that journalists and civilians face when trapped in the crossfire between ISAF soldiers and armed Afghan insurgents,” IFJ Asia -Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“The IFJ appreciates the thoroughness with which this incident was probed under applicable military law by ISAF and the spirit of candour in which it has been made public.”
The IFJ and partner organizations of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) call for a broad-ranging discussion between journalists’ unions, media managements and the security agencies – both under coalition and Afghan government command – to ensure that journalists in situations such as this are afforded adequate protection.
The IFJ also urges ISAF and the Afghan government to suitably compensate the immediate family of Khpalwak for his tragic death.
“The results of all investigations into the killing of journalists in earlier such encounters should now be made public as part of a broader discussion,” Park said.