(WASHINGTON - November 12, 2020) The journalists and staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) mourn the violent death today of their colleague Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, a journalist for RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language Radio Free Afghanistan service, who was killed in a targeted bomb attack in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province. His younger brother, a former reporter for Deutsche Welle, was also injured in the attack.
Dayee, 33, who had been associated with RFE/RL since 2008, reported on the dangerous security situation and its impact on civilians in his native province, where the Taliban and government forces are in near-constant battle. Dayee also covered social and cultural issues and gave Radio Free Afghanistan, known locally as Radio Azadi, some of its most incisive reports on the drug trade in Helmand, which is the source for most of the world’s illicit opium production.
"We are shocked and saddened by the loss of Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, a brave and dedicated colleague who never wavered in his determination to report the news from his native Helmand Province," said Daisy Sindelar, RFE/RL’s acting president.
She termed Dayee’s killing “a cowardly, despicable act that devastates a young family and leaves Afghanistan deprived of a talented reporter who bore witness to the changes under way in his country,” adding that “the rising threat of violence against journalists should deeply concern everyone invested in a secure and peaceful future for Afghanistan."
Qadir Habib, the head of Radio Free Afghanistan, said Dayee’s killing is devastating news. “He was a talented, committed, unbiased, and bold journalist,” he said. “He wanted to be the voice of his people and was tireless in letting the world know about their pain and suffering.”
Michael Pack, the chief executive officer of the agency that oversees RFE/RL, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) said that “We are both saddened and incensed to learn of the death of Mohammad Ilyas Dayee." Pack condemned the killing as "a cowardly act and an assault on the universal principle of freedom of expression.”
Dayee’s killing has also been widely condemned in Afghanistan, where no one has yet claimed credit for the attack. Zabiullah Mujahid, a purported Taliban spokesman, told Radio Free Afghanistan that the group will investigate the killing.
Dayee is sadly not the first RFE/RL journalist to be killed in Afghanistan since RFE/RL resumed broadcasting in the country in January 2002. Three Radio Free Afghanistan journalists -- Sabawoon Kakar, Abadullah Hananzai, and Maharram Durrani -- died in April 2018 in a coordinated bombing attack in Kabul that killed at least 25 people, including 9 journalists. Other RFE/RL journalists in Afghanistan have endured death threats and other forms of harassment from Taliban and Islamic State forces.
Radio Free Afghanistan, known locally as Radio Azadi, is an online pioneer and media leader in Afghanistan, reaching 25 percent of the adult audience nationally with reporting that promotes human rights and peace on radio, SMS, and the Internet. In the past 12 months, Afghan Service videos have been watched more than 160 million times on its Facebook pages alone.