The International Federation of Journalists today warned that journalists face a new and sinister threat to their lives after cameraman Ulf Strömberg of Sweden's TV4 was shot dead by armed robbers who broke into a house where Swedish journalists were staying in the northern Afghan city of Taloqan.
"Journalists are now the targets of armed gangsters who are ruthlessly exploiting the chaos that has descended over much of Afghanistan," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ. He said journalists, many of them in possession of satellite telephones and expensive equipment, needed reliable security conditions and protection to work. "This may be almost impossible to guarantee given the fast-moving conditions of the conflict," said White, "but the first priority after this tragedy must be to work from safe areas."
The IFJ, which has sent a message of condolence to Swedish colleagues and the family of Ulf Strömberg, said journalists were shocked by the scale of deaths among journalists reporting the war in Afghanistan - eight confirmed and three reported killings in the last two weeks. The IFJ says that it is investigating a total of 96 killings of journalists and media staff this year.
According to reports from Taloqan three gunmen with rifles and knives broke into the house where Strömberg, three other Swedish journalists and an Afghan translator were staying and demanded money. After the shooting they escaped with a satellite telephone and several thousand dollars.
Taloqan has been the base for scores of foreign journalists covering the siege of Kunduz. The city fell to the northern alliance on Sunday after a two-week siege. Most media now plan to evacuate Taloqan for neighbouring Tajikistan. "In the circumstances, media have little choice," said Aidan White.
Four journalists, two from the Reuters news agency, one from the Italian daily Corriere della Sera and one from the Spanish newspaper El Mundo - were ambushed and killed last week on the road between the eastern city of Jalalabad and the capital, Kabul. Earlier this month, two French radio journalists, from Radio France Internationale and RTL and a writer for the German magazine Stern died in a roadside skirmish near the front lines in northern Afghanistan. Iran Radio has reported a further three journalists killed.