| ||Afghan journalists protest against weak security|
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KANDAHAR – Afghan journalists protested Thursday against poor security after a reporter was shot dead, with Amnesty International warning the media was under threat in Afghanistan.
A few dozen reporters marched through the southern city of Kandahar to condemn Tuesday's killing of Jawed Ahmad, a reporter for Canadian and Iranian television who also spent 11 months in US military detention.
In a resolution handed to UN representatives, they expressed disappointment that the government and international troops were unable to secure the city, in the heartland of the brutal Taliban-led insurgency.
"We ask the government, the foreign forces, civil society and diplomatic missions to spare no effort to provide a safe working environment for journalists especially in Kandahar," the petition said.
Security in Afghanistan is at its worst since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime, with insurgent attacks reaching a record high last year and other groups also involved in the violence.
The journalists demanded that the authorities find who killed Ahmad, who was in his early 20s and was in September released from 11 months in US military custody without charge.
The Taliban, blamed for several assassinations in the city, has denied involvement. But the extremists are suspected of murdering other journalists, including an Afghan reporter for the BBC who was killed last year.
Amnesty issued a statement warning that the murder and sentencing of another Afghan reporter to 20 years in jail for blasphemy showed that freedom of expression was under threat in the fledgling democracy.
Journalists are vulnerable to violence and intimidation from both the authorities as well as people who oppose the government, it said.
"The Afghan government should show that it can and will protect and support journalists, especially with presidential and parliamentary elections coming up in the next few months," Amnesty's Asia-Pacific director Sam Zarifi said.
The watchdog echoed calls by media rights groups for President Hamid Karzai to pardon Perwiz Kambakhsh for the blasphemy charges, which related to articles critical of Islam that were downloaded from the Internet.
Kambakhsh was initially sentenced to death.
The repressive policies of the Taliban regime, which ruled in Kabul from 1996-2001, were touted as a justification for the international intervention that toppled the hardline government in 2001, Amnesty said.
"Foreign governments who provide military assistance and aid to Afghanistan therefore should help ensure that the human rights of Afghan people are upheld," Zarifi said.