Afghan Journalists Boycott Taliban Coverage After Kabul Hotel Attack Kills Reporter, Children

Taliban call assault "brave." Nine civilians, including two children, executed.

March 21, 2014, 12:07 PM
PHOTO: Sardar Ahmad, 40, a Kabul based staff reporter at the Agence France-Presse.
Sardar Ahmad, 40, a Kabul based staff reporter at the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency poses for a photo at the AFP office in Kabul hours before he, his wife and two of his three children were gunned down when four teenage gunmen attacked Kabul's Serena hotel.
Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

March 21, 2014 — -- A group of prominent journalists in Afghanistan is fighting back against terrorism on behalf of one of their own, declaring today that they are going to temporarily boycott reporting on the Taliban following the terrorist organization's assault on Kabul’s Serena Hotel Thursday.

The attack killed nine civilians, including a well-known local journalist, his wife and two young children. The reporter’s third and youngest child reportedly sustained serious injuries and is undergoing emergency surgery.

"The Taliban carry out such attacks, which can never be justified, solely for the purposes of news coverage and projecting terror among Afghan citizens," said a Facebook post by the group calling themselves the Afghan Journalist Family. "Therefore, the journalism family in Afghanistan, in a collective decision, has decided to boycott coverage of news related to the Taliban for a period of 15 days, refraining from broadcasting any information that could further the Taliban’s claimed purpose of terror."

“We also ask the Taliban for an explanation of how they justify the shooting from a close-range of innocent children,” the statement added.

The group is made up of more than 50 journalists representing Afghan and international media outlets, including ABC News.

The Taliban took responsibility for the deadly attack on the hotel today, claiming on its website that it was a methodical operation that took the lives of 22 “foreign invaders and puppets of high-ranking officials.” Each of the four attackers were killed by responding security forces.

The Taliban message, which said the suicide attackers had “indomitable courage,” makes no mention of the two Afghan children who were among their victims. Nor does it discuss the four women – two Afghan and two foreign – who the Afghan government said were gunned down.

In all, the government said that in addition to the attackers, nine people actually died, all civilians – two foreign men, two foreign women and an entire Afghan family belonging to a prominent local journalist later identified as Sardar Ahmad, senior reporter in Agence France Presse’s Kabul bureau.

Ahmad’s youngest son, a toddler, was the only member of the family to survive the attack, but AFP reports the child suffered serious wounds and is undergoing emergency surgery to save the boy’s life. Ahmad’s two children who were killed were between 5 and 10 years old, the Afghan Interior Ministry said.

"Sardar was one of our best journalists in Afghanistan and a beloved member of our team," Gilles Campion, AFP's Asia-Pacific regional director, said in an AFP report. "During the 11 years he spent with AFP in Kabul, he always exercised immense courage and objectivity when reporting, despite the risks faced by journalists in that country."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai offered his personal condolences for Ahmad’s death, calling the reporter a “young, active, hardworking and patriotic journalist whose death is a great loss for the press and for all of us.”

The Serena Hotel is considered one of the safest places to stay in the Afghan capital. The attack follows a campaign of violence targeting foreigners in Kabul, according to The Associated Press.

“Once again, the journalism family in Afghanistan mourns the loss of its active members in a tragic incident,” the journalist group's Facebook post says. “We pray for the soul of our respected colleague and his beloved family.”

READ: Sardar Ahmad’s Last Story (AFP)

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