JALALABAD -- An Afghan news anchor and activist was shot dead by assailants Thursday (December 10), her employer said, making her the second journalist killed in a month in Afghanistan.
Malalai Maiwand, in her 20s, was killed along with her driver, Mohammad Tahir, in Jalalabad as they travelled to work, said Enekaas TV, the private television channel that employed her.
The journalist, whose activist mother was also killed by unknown gunmen five years ago, had previously spoken out about the difficulties of being a female reporter in Afghanistan.
"She was on her way to the office when the incident occurred," said Ataullah Khogyani, spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor. "Her driver was also shot and killed."
The local hospital has confirmed the deaths.
No group has claimed responsibility.
"Who has problems with women working in the Afghan society?" tweeted Fatima Murchal, the newly appointed deputy spokesperson for President Ashraf Ghani. "These coward culprits will not be forgiven, not even after peace."
Maiwand's death comes as targeted killings of prominent figures becomes increasingly common as violence surges, despite ongoing peace talks between the government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.
Threat to press freedom
The continued violence is threatening to undo years of progress, warned the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee.
"If the killing of journalists does not stop, Afghanistan will lose one of its greatest achievements which is press freedom," the committee tweeted, calling for an investigation.
Ross Wilson, the top US envoy in Kabul, condemned the "assassination" and called for the violence to stop.
Presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi also condemned the "terrorist attack" against Maiwand, calling it "shocking and utterly despicable".
"The current senseless violence against our people must end," he tweeted.
Nangarhar Province and its capital, Jalalabad, have seen regular clashes between government forces and the Taliban. The "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) also has claimed several deadly attacks there.
The murder of Maiwand comes just weeks after Azadi Radio reporter Aliyas Dayee was killed in a car bombing in Lashkargah, Helmand Province, on November 12.
Dayee had previously been threatened by the Taliban, said Human Rights Watch.
Yama Siawash, a former television presenter in Kabul, was killed in a similar car bombing near his home last month.
No group has so far claimed those murders.
Intent to silence diversity of opinion
The European Union delegation, NATO mission and other diplomatic missions based in Kabul on Monday (December 7) issued a joint statement condemning recent "targeted attacks on media representatives, civil society and civilians".
"The Taliban and various terrorist organisations are responsible for the significant majority of civilian casualties in Afghanistan," the statement said.
"We consider these not only as savage attacks against Afghan blood, but as an attack on the very peace process in Afghanistan," it said.
"Recognising the bravery of Afghanistan’s people, we are confident that these attacks will fail in their intent to silence the diversity of opinions," it said. "It has never mattered more for the people of Afghanistan to feel able to express themselves freely and provide their opinions on the peace talks, as well as engage in the process, to achieve an inclusive and sustainable peace."