One year ago, on July 28, 2011, Ahmad Omaid Khpalwak, 25, was killed by American troops during a brutal close-quarters battle with a Taliban suicide squad backed by gunmen. Khpalwak was one of 22 people killed in the hours-long siege on government buildings that included the governor's office and police headquarters in Tarin Kot, capital of Uruzgan province. A reporter for the BBC, Pajhwok Afghan News, and several other organizations, Khpalwak died with 11 bullet wounds in his body. He was shot in a government-run newsroom while waving his press card and declaring in English that he was a journalist. It's fair to ask, one year after Khpalwak died, if any lessons have been learned. The odds that a journalist could be killed by U.S. forces' fire seem, unfortunately, to be as high as ever.
Danish Karokhel, who won a CPJ International Press Freedom Award in 2008, messaged this morning concerned that the news agency he runs, Pajhwok Afghan News, and some other media outlets have been referred to the Attorney General's Office by the Ministry of Information and Culture for reporting on an alleged bribery scandal involving a member of Parliament. The action was taken by the ministry's Media Monitoring Commission, and could lead to criminal charges.
Wednesday, the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) released its report, "Death of an Uruzgan Journalist: Command Errors and Collateral Damage," by Kate Clark on the July 2011 shooting death of journalist Omaid Khpalwak. Clark's details on how Khpalwak died corroborate and then go beyond the investigation already conducted by the U.S.-led NATO forces who were responsible. Her report was important to write, and is important to read.
Khpalwak, 25, died in violence between insurgents and security forces when gunmen and suicide bombers targeted the governor's office and police headquarters in Tarin Kot, capital of Uruzgan province in central Afghanistan.
Ahmad Omaid Khpalwak covered violent news. His last two stories for Pajhwok Afghan News, before he died on July 28 in a major attack in Tarin Kot, capital of Uruzgan province, were about an attack on police checkpoints in which both Taliban and police were killed, and an interview with a would-be suicide bomber. Few of his 24 years of life saw any kind of peace in Afghanistan.
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1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.