Journalists have been paying tribute to Afghan journalist Sultan Munadi, who was killed during a British military operation early this morning to rescue him and British journalist Stephen Farrell from their Taliban abductors near the northern city of Kunduz. Farrell, who works for the New York Times, was rescued safe and sound.
“He represented the best of Afghanistan,” said David Rohde, another New York Times reporter who was himself kidnapped near Kabul last November. “It was an honour to work with him. An extraordinary journalist, colleague and human being.”
Afghan journalists who knew Munadi spoke to Reporters Without Borders today of their sadness and incomprehension at his death.
The press freedom organisation urges the British authorities to open an investigation into the circumstances in which Munadi was killed in the military assault. A British soldier, Afghan civilians and Taliban members were also reportedly killed in the operation.
“All options must be considered in a kidnapping case, but the tragedy that took place this morning in northern Afghanistan raises many questions,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The brunt of the responsibility must of course be borne by the Taliban, who put the two journalists in danger by kidnapping them.”
At least 16 Afghan and foreign journalists have been kidnapped in Afghanistan since January 2002. Farrell had already been kidnapped in Iraq.
New York Times executive editor Bill Keller said: “We’re overjoyed that Steve is free, but deeply saddened that his freedom came at such a cost.” The newspaper said it had not been told in advance that a military rescue operation was being planned. At the newspaper’s request, Reporters Without Borders had not reported the abduction of Farrell and Munadi on 5 September.
Today’s operation was carried out by British troops who assaulted the house where Farrell and Munadi were being held in a village near Kunduz. The journalists managed to get out of the house during the raid but when Munadi emerged, shouting “Journalist, journalist,” he was struck by a hail of shots of which the origin has not been established.
Farrell, who was right behind him, dived for cover and waited before announcing his identity to the soldiers.
Munadi began working for the New York Times in 2002 before going on to be an editor for several Afghan radio stations including Good Morning Afghanistan. He then spent a period studying in Germany. He had agreed to accompany Farrell as a freelancer to the Kunduz region to investigate the reported death of up to 90 Afghans, including many civilians, in a NATO airstrike on two hijacked fuel tankers.
Munadi was married and had two children. At Farrell’s invitation, he had posted a personal entry on the New York Times “At War” blog just a week ago: http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2009...
Afghan journalists pay a high price for working for the foreign news media. Munadi was the fourth to be killed since 2001, following Jawed Ahmad, Abdul Samad Rohani and Adjmal Nashqbandi. Others have been physically attacked or arrested in the course of their work, or forced to leave the country.
See the article "Afghan Reporter Recalled as a Man of Many Abilities" by David Rohde: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/10/w...