The Dangers Of Journalism In Afghanistan
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
There was a suicide bombing this week in Kabul. Journalists rushed to cover it. Then a second bomb went off meant for them. Nine Afghan journalists died at the scene. Later that day, a BBC reporter was shot dead in Khost Province. It was the single deadliest day for journalists in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Bilal Sarwary is an Afghan reporter. He joins us now from Kabul. Mr. Sarwary, thanks so much for being with us.
BILAL SARWARY: Good to be with you.
SIMON: Where were you when you heard the news, sir?
SARWARY: I was at home. So I just woke up when I got a call from my editors in Istanbul. I'm a freelance journalist. And then I started doing what I have always done for the last many years, calling my sources in the police and intelligence service. Then I found out that there was an explosion targeting one of the Afghan intelligence services offices in the heart of Kabul. As I was trying to get to the bureau, then I heard that there was a second explosion. And it didn't take long for me to find out that my own colleagues were the victims. So it was very, very painful.
SIMON: Could you help us remember some of them?
SARWARY: Yes. Shah Marai, the AFP photographer, was someone that I had met in Kabul in 2001 when I started working as a fixer translator. Then I ended up going on many, many different assignments with him. And to be honest with you, he was someone who was a self-made man. He was an example for my generation, for the post-9/11 generation. It really broke my heart because I thought about his children, about him, how committed he was. He had a chance to work outside of Afghanistan. He didn't.
And then I also ended up remembering my time with the cameraman for Tolo News because I had been with him in Kunduz Province on several occasions. So these are faces. These are people with real stories. These are just not numbers. And unfortunately, we lost a generation of Afghan reporters. These were people who were the eyes and ears of Afghan people to the world. They were no more just ordinary people. They really were good in doing what they did.
SIMON: Mr. Sarwary, I still have some very good friends who were fixers, translators and then reporters in Afghanistan who are now in the United States or United Kingdom. Why have you stayed?
SARWARY: I think there are many different reasons. But I think for me, perhaps more than anything else, it was the murder of my friend Abdul Samad Rohani. He was a BBC reporter in Helmand. And other time I wrote about it, I felt like the weight of the whole world was on my shoulders. And I made a commitment with myself that, no, actually, some of us will step back. And, you know, this is the situation of almost majority of Afghans. I mean, you know, where can they go? Can't seek asylum. They are ordinary people who really love this country, love being here. And, you know, they are living both under the control of the Afghan government, the Taliban or the so-called Islamic State.
So I think you'll find a lot of Afghans tell you that they love this country, and they're staying. And there's always hope. I mean, no matter how much pain there is, how much suffering there is, I think Afghanistan has always had hope, even when it was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan or the Civil War or the darkest days of the Taliban regime. Ordinary people really clinged (ph) onto that hope, and it really worked.
SIMON: Bilal Sarwary, an Afghan journalist from Kabul. Thanks so much.
SARWARY: It's good to be talking to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.