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UN Demands Afghanistan End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists

FILE - Afghans take part in a burial ceremony of journalist Zabihullah Tamanna, in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 7, 2016. According to the U.N., 11 journalists have died in 2016 while covering the Afghan conflict.

Media defenders in Afghanistan say at least 11 journalists have died and hundreds more forced to flee from fighting in the first 10 months of 2016, making it the deadliest year for the country.

The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee, a local media watchdog, says more than 60 journalists have been killed in the country in the past 16 years and authorities never investigated those deaths.

"The cycle of violence and impunity in Afghanistan has been a longstanding challenge, but has been particularly troubling for journalists over the course of the last year," says Pernille Dahler Kardel of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

She told a seminar Wednesday in Kabul that local watchdogs have reported to UNAMA that hundreds of Afghan male and female reporters have been forced to flee the conflict zone in the past year.

But Kardel asserted that conflict-related situations are not the only real threat to journalists, citing intimidation and harassment as other sources, particularly in cases in which journalists tried to tell corruption stories.

"Impunity emboldens perpetrators and feeds into a vicious cycle. Fear and self-censorship among the media are real issues that end up denying the public the right to information and diminishing confidence in the rule of law."

The UNAMA official praised the Afghan government for issuing new legislation and declaring its commitment to fight impunity for crimes against journalists.

But she echoed demands by local media monitors for addressing the culture of impunity through effective implementation of laws.

Kardel was speaking to mark the U.N. International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists