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Afghanistan 31 July 2006

Gunmen attack Tolo TV crew covering Kabul demonstration

Reporters Without Borders today condemned a violent attack by a parliamentarian’s armed supporters on a crew sent by the privately-owned Tolo TV station to cover a demonstration in Kabul on 29 July.

“News media such as Tolo TV have an essential role to place in helping Afghanistan’s young democracy to take root,” the press freedom organisation said. “We call for a full investigation into this attack and the punishment of those responsible. We also urge the authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure that this type of violence does not recur.”

After going to Kabul’s Paghman district to cover a protest against the illegal appropriation of some land, the three-member Tolo TV crew were stopped by a dozen gunmen as they headed toward a nearby police station to seek an official comment. Reporter Noorullah Rahmani, cameraman Qais Ahamd and their driver were all beaten and thrown to the ground, and their camera was taken.

Rahmani said police witnessed the attack but did not intervene. The local police chief refused to accept any responsibility, blaming it on “trouble-makers.” Rahmani said their assailants were supporters of parliamentarian Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf, who was allegedly involved in the illegal seizure of land. Sayyaf has refused to comment on the attack.

This is the second physical attack on Tolo TV staff in the past three months. Cameraman Omid Yakmanish was attacked by legislators during a stormy parliamentary session in May. Tolo TV was awarded the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France press freedom prize in 2005

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