When I started researching journalists to highlight during the month of October my first list consisted of all men. After realizing that was a bit one-sided, it set out to find the story of a female journalist killed while documenting something or in retaliation to what they were reporting on. It did not take me that long before I discovered a very recent story of a young woman journalist killed in Afghanistan in response to her reporting. Her story highlights not only the dangers of reporting in the politically, socially and religiously unstable environment of Afghanistan but the added danger of being a female journalist in that environment.
This week’s saint of the week is Palwasha Tokhi.
There is not much information about the early life of Palwasha Tokhi. At some point she worked for or was somehow linked to the German military. At the age of 21 she began working for the Bayan-e-Shamal media organization which had been set up by the German government in 2004. Palwasha Tokhi would work for the Bayan-e-Shamal media organization for five years. Her work as a journalist was unique and almost unprecedented in Afghanistan where women journalists remain greatly underrepresented. This is due not only to the hostility towards journalists in Afghanistan (Seven journalists have been killed in 2014, three were killed in 2013 and two in 2012) but to the high levels of sexual harassment, discrimination and intimidation, including death threats, directed towards female journalists. After her work with Bayan-e-Shamal, Palwasha Tokhi moved from Afghanistan to Thailand in 2012 where she received a master’s degree. After graduating she returned to Afghanistan to continue in her journalistic work. However, almost immediately upon her return she began receiving death threats. Out of fear for her life, Palwasha Tokhi began the process to immigrate to Germany and submitted an application for German residence.
On September 16th, Palwasha Tokhi received a visitor to her house who said they were coming to deliver a wedding invitation. Once the visitor was inside, they stabbed Palwasha Tokhi to death and fled. On October 11th a suspect was arrested but the Palwasha Tokhi’s murder remains unsolved and nobody has been convicted as responsible. Her case joins the over 40 cases of journalists killed in Afghanistan since 2001 whose cases have not been followed by the judicial system in Afghanistan.
More Information & References:
NYTimes – In Brutal Year, 7th Journalist Is Killed in Afghanistan
ToloNews – Female Journalist Killed in Balkh Province
Huffington Post – Another Journalist Murdered As Afghanistan Faces Its Deadliest Reporting Climate In Years
DW.de (Deutsche Welle) – NATO’s Afghan employees fear for their lives