WASHINGTON – With journalists and journalism under greater threat than ever before in Afghanistan, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) honors the sacrifice of four of its journalists who have died in Taliban-driven violence in the past three years. RFE/RL and its Radio Free Afghanistan Service, known locally as Radio Azadi, remain committed to serving their loyal Dari- and Pashto-speaking audiences in Afghanistan.
RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said, “Three years ago today, RFE/RL suffered a terrible loss in Afghanistan. Today we honor the memories of Maharram Durrani, Abadullah Hananzai, and Sabawoon Kakar. We remember their commitment to their colleagues and their passion for their work. We are committed to keeping their spirits alive by providing objective news and information for the Afghan people despite the challenges that lie ahead.”
Kakar, Hananzai, and Durrani all died on April 30, 2018 in a coordinated bombing attack in Kabul that killed at least 25 people, including 9 journalists. All three were young – at 30, Kakar was the oldest – and deeply committed to RFE/RL and journalism as means to make their war-torn country a better place.
More recently, in November 2020 Radio Azadi lost its well-respected Helmand correspondent, Mohammad Ilyas Dayee in a targeted car bombing that also injured his younger brother, a former reporter for Deutsche Welle. Dayee showed great dedication to his work, according to Radio Free Afghanistan Director Qadir Habib. His reporting not only covered the dangerous security situation in Helmand, where the Taliban and government forces are in near-constant battle; it focused on how that impacted the lives of civilians in the province, which borders Pakistan and is close to Iran.
RFE/RL journalists in Afghanistan have long endured death threats and other forms of harassment from Taliban and Islamic State forces – trends that have intensified as efforts speed up to conclude peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, according to Habib. Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently accused the Taliban of engaging in “a pattern of threats, intimidation, and violence” against media workers in Afghanistan, which the watchdog says heightens concerns about preserving freedom of expression and the media in any peace settlement between the militant group and the Afghan government.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 41 million people every week in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed 6.5 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2020. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.