WASHINGTON - On June 3, three Afghan journalists with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) who were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Kabul last year were recognized and remembered at an annual memorial ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
In opening remarks for the 2019 rededication of the Journalists Memorial, Freedom Forum chair and CEO Jan Neuharth deplored the increasing dangers confronting the media. She challenged audiences to consider “a world without news” to help “recognize why safeguarding journalists around the world is essential.”
RFE/RL colleagues Sabawoon Kakar, Abadullah Hananzai, and Maharram Durrani, along with six other journalists, were killed in Kabul on April 30, 2018 when they were targeted in the second of a pair of coordinated suicide bomb attacks that rocked the city center near the headquarters of Afghanistan's intelligence agency.
Kakar, 30, had been a member of the video team for RFE/RL’s Afghan Service for five years. Hananzai, 26, was a journalist and video cameraman who had been working on an antinarcotics project for the Service. Durrani was a new hire who was training to contribute to a radio program for Afghan woman. At least 25 people were killed in the Kabul attacks, which were claimed by the militant group Islamic State. To date, none of the perpetrators has been identified.
In remarks at the ceremony, RFE/RL Acting President Daisy Sindelar said, ”With the loss of these three promising journalists, one can’t help but count the cost in terms of the many essential stories and reports that Afghanistan will now go without.” Sindelar added that while journalism has become more dangerous for RFE/RL field correspondents and foreign reporters everywhere, “That danger serves as a reminder that the work is more vital than ever.”
Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Washington Post, spoke at the ceremony to honor murdered Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and observed, “If he can be murdered with impunity, no journalist is safe.”
Capital Gazette editor RIck Hutzell honored five of his colleagues who were killed in a targeted mass shooting in their newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland in June 2018, noting that “none of them would have chosen to be up on that wall, none of them would have chosen to be a symbol of the perils facing a free press. And yet, they are.”
According to the Newseum, the 21 reporters whose names were added to the Journalists Memorial this year all died while reporting the news in 2018; in most cases, they were deliberately targeted for their work. The names of another five journalists who were killed while reporting for RFE/RL are also inscribed on the Memorial: Ogulsapar Muradova, Khamail Muhsin Khalaf, Nazar Abdulwahid Al-Radhi, Georgi Markov, and Alisher Saipov.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to 34 million people in 26 languages and 22 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed over 2.6 billion times on Facebook and YouTube in FY2018. 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.