KAYA, BURKINA FASO - The COVID-19 pandemic has led to cuts in foreign aid from donor nations such as Britain, which this month slashed its aid budget by $5.5 billion. The funding loss is being felt in Burkina Faso, where it could shut down a group that helps thousands of survivors of gender-based violence and rape.
ISLAMABAD - Human rights and media freedom advocates are urging authorities in Afghanistan to release four journalists arrested this week on charges they were “spreading enemy propaganda.”
It was not immediately known whether the journalists have formally been charged, nor have Afghan authorities discussed their fate since taking them into custody Monday.
“As the Afghan conflict escalates, all parties seem intent on silencing the country’s media,” lamented Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a statement issued late Friday. “Unless charged with a genuine crime, the four journalists should be released immediately.”
The journalists - Mohib Obaidi, Sanaullah Siyam, Qudrat Sultani and Bismillah Watandost - were arrested after they returned from a reporting trip to the Taliban-held district of Spin Boldak in southern Kandahar province. They had traveled to the district to investigate reports of Afghan civilian killings by Taliban insurgents.
Obaidi, Sultani and Watandost are reporters of Kandahar-based Millat Zagh Radio, and Siam, is a free-lance cameraperson.
“The arrests …underscore rising concerns the Afghan government is trying to shield itself from media criticism. Among the many threats they face, Afghanistan’s embattled journalists should not also have to face prosecution for doing their jobs,” said HWR.
KAMPALA, UGANDA - Uganda has lifted some COVID-19 restrictions after 42 days, while others stay in place. The lockdown of schools remains until, the government says, some essential workers including health workers, security personnel, teachers, and those over 45 years old, are vaccinated.
The United Nations is warning of a worsening humanitarian catastrophe in Ethiopia. UNICEF said Friday more than 100,000 children could face extreme starvation in the next year as a result of major fighting in the country's northern Tigray region.
GENEVA - A United Nations overview of conditions in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray province after more than nine-months of civil strife finds a society of staggering devastation, of ruined lives and livelihoods.
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TUNIS, TUNISIA - Tunisian authorities jailed an opposition lawmaker Friday and briefly detained four members of the powerful Islamist movement Ennahdha in the wake of the president's decision to seize exceptional powers, according to Tunisian media reports.
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - A global human rights monitor on Friday accused the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan of detaining and executing suspected government officials as well as security forces, and in some cases their relatives.
Human Rights Watch lamented in a statement that the Taliban’s retaliatory actions ran counter to their pledges that no harm would be inflicted on people who worked for the Afghan government or assisted the United States and NATO troops.
The allegations came as the Taliban continue to make territorial gains across Afghanistan and government security forces struggle to contain them. The insurgents deny they are carrying out revenge killings.
The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that among recent cases, in southern Kandahar province the Taliban earlier in the month executed a popular comedian, Nazar Mohammad, better known as Khasha Zwan.
The slain man had posted routines that included songs and jokes on TikTok and reportedly also worked with the Afghan police force. Taliban fighters abducted him from his home and beat him before shooting him to death, according to HRW.
“Taliban forces apparently executed Khasha Zwan because he poked fun at Taliban leaders,” said Patrica Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“His murder and other recent abuses demonstrate the willingness of Taliban commanders to violently crush even the tamest criticism or objection,” Gossman said.
A video of two armed men slapping and abusing the detained comedian went viral on social media, prompting Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid to admit insurgent fighters were behind the incident.
Mujahid said the men have been arrested and will be tried because they were bound to bring the comedian before a Taliban court instead of executing him.
Insurgent commanders are also accused of detaining scores of people associated with the government or police in Kandahar.
“Advancing Taliban forces have no blank check to brutally target their critics,” Gossman said. “The Taliban leadership usually denies the abuses, but it’s their fighters carrying out these attacks and their responsibility to stop the killings.”
The U.S. government also condemned the killing of the comic.
“Nazar Mohammad 'Khasha' was a beloved comedian, bringing laughter & joy to his community even in dark times,” tweeted Ross Wilson, acting U.S. ambassador in Kabul. “The Taliban kidnapped & lynched him, then gleefully published video evidence on Twitter. We condemn these sickening actions & the Taliban leadership should too.”
The Biden administration outlined a number of efforts related to its Cuba policy on Friday -- including new sanctions and assistance to Cuban dissidents -- as President Joe Biden met with members of the Cuban-American community and key members of Congress at the White House.
MOSCOW - The United States said Friday it has laid off nearly 200 local staffers working for its diplomatic missions in Russia ahead of an August 1 deadline set by the Kremlin for their dismissal. The move is the latest in a series of measures taken by both sides that have strained U.S.-Russia relations.
KAYA, BURKINA FASO - The COVID-19 pandemic has led to cuts in foreign aid from donor nations such as Britain — which cut its aid budget by $5.5 billion — Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia. The funding loss is being felt in Burkina Faso, where it could shut down a group that helps thousands of survivors of gender-based violence and rape.