Ambassador John R. Bass
International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists
October 29, 2018
Thank you very much for joining us this evening as we gather to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.
It’s a pretty long title for what is a very simple concept which is that journalists should be able to do their work without fear of violence, intimidation or threat. Simple concept. Should be effectively implemented everywhere around the world, but as all of you know, and as we have painfully seen here in Afghanistan this year, it is not a concept that is respected everywhere or is achieved everywhere.
Many of you were with us six months ago to mark World Press Freedom Day, and on that day we were all saddened and grieving at your loss of all of your colleagues killed covering the attack on Shash Darak just a day or two before. Unfortunately since then several more of your colleagues have been lost as they tried to cover stories of consequence here in Afghanistan to both Afghans and to citizens and people around the world.
So we remember Samim Faramarz and Ramiz Ahmadi who were both killed during the attack on the wrestling club in West Kabul last month. And we remember veteran RTA cameraman Mohammad Saleem Angaar killed in the attack on General Raziq just a week ago. Angaar had worked in radio and television, I understand, in Kandahar for 40 years. That’s a career, and it’s a career unfortunately cut short too soon, like all of your other colleagues lost in Afghanistan this year.
Eighteen journalists killed in Afghanistan this year alone. Many others wounded. Many of you threatened. Some of you in either category with us here tonight. There are perhaps roles in this society that are more dangerous at times and we see that in the sacrifices made by the brave men and women in the Afghan Security Forces, but no role in this society is more important than the work that all of you do in providing news, information, opinion to your fellow citizens and to broader audiences around the world.
As we are obviously talking about tonight, journalists often work at great personal risk. You shine a light on abuses and corruption. You expose threats posed by transnational criminal organizations. You counter disinformation and propaganda that spread false narratives on many different subjects. All of those efforts underpin democratic values around the world, whether it’s in Afghanistan, in the United States, or in many other countries.
Obviously that work draws scrutiny and attention and in some cases violence and vengeance from the people who do not want their crimes revealed, who do not want to see their activities exposed. And in too many parts of the world crimes against journalists too often go unpunished.
So today we are marking this year’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists precisely because it is so important that we all work together to make progress. And with others in the international community, we will continue working to try to eliminate impunity so that all of you can do the vital work you do without fear of violence, threats, intimidation, disruptions.
And as we mark this day today we salute the work you do, the professionalism you demonstrate as you do it, and the vital contributions you’re making to creating a future Afghanistan in which all of its citizens can live in peace, with dignity, and in freedom.
And in doing so, we renew our dedication to promoting a free, professional and independent press, and to advocating for accountability for those who would undermine that free press.
So once again, thank you for joining us this evening.
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