Is live coverage of terror more important than journalist safety?

Two Afghan reporters recently lost their lives while covering a deadly blast in Kabul. The killings underscore the danger of working as reporters on the ground in conflict-plagued areas.

Last week, two TV journalists, Samim Faramarz and Ramiz Ahmadi, lost their lives while reporting about a twin bomb attack in the Afghan capital Kabul.

Faramarz, a reporter, and Ahmadi, a cameraman, were covering the first bomb explosion when the second bomb went off and killed both of them.

"After my father found out that two of my colleagues (Faramarz and Ahmadi) were killed in the Kabul attack, he rang me up and told me to resign from my job or not to come home," an Afghan journalist told DW on condition of anonymity.

He also said that every time a journalist is killed while performing his duty, it adds to the pressure on his colleagues.

Asia | 21.01.2015

"Not only is it a matter of grief, but also our families and friends try to persuade us to look for less dangerous jobs," he added.

Read more:Afghan journalists defy Taliban threats 

No security or insurance for journalists

According to NAI, an Afghan media association, 53 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan in the past three years; 12 of them in the past five months. The number of wounded journalists is even higher.

Nazia, a journalist who lost her eyesight while covering an attack in Kabul, says there is no health insurance for journalists in Afghanistan.

"After I lost my eyesight, I hoped that my organization would pay my medical bills, but they abandoned me. I had to leave for Turkey to get medical treatment," she told DW.

Read more: Media freedom in Afghanistan increasingly under threat

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Many Afghan journalists blame the owners of media organizations for not protecting their employees. Local reporters are generally on their own when they cover a violent attack or a deadly blast, without any proper security gear or protection.

"No report is more important than the life and well-being of a journalist who reports it," Reza Moini, the head of Reporters without Borders' Iran/Afghanistan desk, told DW.

"The media organizations should do a better job at protecting their employees so that they can carry out their duties effectively. It is also the duty of the governments to provide them security," Moini said.

But Lutfullah Najafizada, director of the Kabul-based TOLO News, says the media organizations should not be blamed for the journalists' deaths.

"Faramarz and Ahmadi lost their lives because the security forces failed to detect and neutralize the second bomb. They're responsible for their deaths," Najafizada told DW.

Read more: German photographer Anja Niedringhaus killed in Afghanistan

Safety first?

There are no official guidelines for Afghan journalists on how to report in a conflict situation, or what measures they must take to protect themselves. Sediqullah Tawhidi, a member of the Afghan Journalist Safety Committee, says it is the job of the media organizations to train their reporters.

"The heads of TV channels and senior editors need to ensure the safety of their reporters," Tawhidi told DW. "They must not risk their lives for the sake of ratings and competition with rival media houses," he added.

Tawhidi said that although some journalist unions prepared a set of guidelines for media organizations, the owners and directors of Afghan media groups rejected them.

One of the recommendations that the media houses did not want to accept was to avoid live coverage of a terrorist attack.

"The Afghan media groups did not agree to it because they considered it a kind of censorship. But we believe that the safety of journalists is paramount," Tawhidi added.

Some media analysts and rights activists also point to the high ratings that live coverages bring to media outlets.

Read more: Opinion: Afghanistan blasts are an attack on press freedom

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Fragile security

Repeated attacks in Afghanistan over the past several months have killed and wounded hundreds of innocent Afghans, and shown the world the fragile and worsening state of security in the conflict-stricken country. The incidents have plunged war-weary Afghan citizens into a state of despair and highlighted the limitations faced by the government in Kabul in ensuring public security.

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A long series of attacks

The violent incidents have made Afghanistan once again a staple of international headlines. Outfits like the Taliban and the "Islamic State" (IS) have claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Afghan government is under heavy pressure to restore security and take back territory controlled by a number of insurgent groups, including the Taliban and IS.

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Spring offensive

Last week, the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive, dismissing an offer of peace talks by President Ashraf Ghani. The militants, fighting to restore their version of strict Islamic law to Afghanistan, said their campaign was a response to a more aggressive US military strategy adopted last year, which aims to force the militants into peace talks.

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Trump's Afghanistan policy

US President Donald Trump unveiled a new strategy for Afghanistan last year, vowing to deploy more troops, on top of the 11,000 already in the country, to train and advise Afghan security forces. Trump also pledged to support Afghan troops in their war against the Taliban and maintain American presence in the country for as long as there was a need for it.

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Afghan peace process

Despite President Ghani's offer in February for peace talks "without preconditions," the Taliban have shown no interest, dismissing the peace overtures as a "conspiracy." Observers say it is unlikely that the militant group will engage in any negotiations, as they currently have the upper hand on the battleground. The Taliban now control more Afghan districts than at any other time since 2001.

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Pakistani support

Pakistan has been under pressure from Kabul and Washington to stop offering safe havens to militants blamed for attacks in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies and insists that its influence over the insurgents has been exaggerated. Kabul and Islamabad regularly trade accusations of harboring the other country's militants and the harsh language has underscored the strains between them.

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Role of the warlords

Apart from the Taliban, Afghan warlords exercise massive influence in the country. Last year, Hizb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returned to Kabul after a 20-year exile to play an active role in Afghan politics. In September 2016, the Afghan government signed a deal with Hekmatyar in the hope that other warlords and militant groups would seek better ties with Kabul.

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An inefficient government

In the midst of an endless battle for power, President Ghani's approval ratings continue to plummet. Rampant corruption in the Afghan government and a long tug-of-war within the US-brokered national unity government has had a negative impact on the government's efforts to eradicate terrorism.