The escalating violence seen in Afghanistan in recent months, which claimed the lives of at least four women journalists, has forced more than 300 others to quit their jobs.
Last year, there were at least 1,678 women and young girls working in various media outlets across the country, but that number has now dropped to 1,377, according to a recent study by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in Afghanistan. It indicated a decrease of 18% women journalists and media workers in the war-torn country, a CPJ press release said on Monday.
These findings are based on a survey conducted in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan, it said. The survey findings have shown that more than 300 women journalists and media workers have resigned or lost their jobs due to factors such as security threats, in particular, recent targeted killings, media financial problems due to COVID-19 and low pay, the CPJ said.
“The working environment for female journalists has never been close to ideal in Afghanistan, but it has become seriously life-threatening after the recent killings of female journalists,” Dunia Ehsas, a Kabul-based woman journalist, told Anadolu Agency.
Unidentified gunmen shot dead three women media workers associated with private TV channel Enekas in the eastern Nangarhar province on March 2 last year. The same media network lost Malalay Maiwand in a similar attack last December.
Parallel to the stalled peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, the country has been witnessing a frightening surge in unclaimed targeted assassinations.
Prominent female columnist Maryam Mehtar told Anadolu Agency that the negative impact of the climate of fear is far-reaching.
“Recently, I have been self-censoring myself, I have limited my activity even on social media, and I am too frightened to trust anyone,” said the seasoned journalist. She added that not everyone has the choice to quit jobs and seek refuge abroad due to financial and other limitations.
According to the CPJ study, of the 1,377 women currently working in the media, 321 are journalists and the rest work in other media sectors, such as media production and administration.
It said the situation in the countryside remains the worst. In nine provinces, including Ghor, Nimroz, Sar-e-Pul, Laghman, Parwan, Kapisa, Uruzgan, Maidan Wardak, and Logar, there are no women journalists and only a few female media workers.
In five other provinces – Nuristan, Kunar, Paktia, Paktika, and Zabul – there are no women in the media.
The CPJ Afghanistan said the strong presence of women in the country’s media is a critical need.
Dunia said that the young generation of Afghan professionals will never give up. “We are trying our best to ensure our safety and pray to Allah for peace, but we will never go back to the dark past,” she said.
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