Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Afghanistan: Tributes Paid to Murdered IWPR Contributor

Killing took place on the country’s deadliest ever day for journalists.
By IWPR Afghanistan
  • Ahmed Shah (right) receives a certificate on completing a three-day IWPR training in investigative journalism in October, 2017. (Photo: IWPR)
    Ahmed Shah (right) receives a certificate on completing a three-day IWPR training in investigative journalism in October, 2017. (Photo: IWPR)
  • Ahmad Shah, dressed in white, at an IWPR workshop on investigative journalism in October 2017. (Photo: IWPR)
    Ahmad Shah, dressed in white, at an IWPR workshop on investigative journalism in October 2017. (Photo: IWPR)

Tributes have been paid to Ahmed Shah, the 29-year-old IWPR reporter shot dead in the southern Afghan province of Khost earlier this week.

Colleagues described the young man as an energetic, highly respected reporter with a particular interest in social justice and human rights issues.

Having been trained by IWPR in 2013, he had contributed stories for the last five years and was working for the BBC at the time of his death.

Shah was killed on what was the deadliest day ever for Afghan journalists. A twin suicide bombing in the Shash Darak area of Kabul earlier on April 30 killed 29 people, including nine journalists. The initial attack was followed up by a second suicide bomber, this time carrying a camera and posing as a reporter, with the specific intention of targeting security forces and reporters as they arrived on the scene.

(See Deadliest Day for Afghan Media).

Although journalists in Afghanistan often face harassment and violence, Shah’s father Mirwais told IWPR that his son had never previously complained of any threats against him.

“When I heard about Ahmad Shah’s murder, the first question that sprang to my mind was, why was killed as he had harmed nobody nor had any enemies?” he said, adding that his son was well-known and respected locally.

But Mirwais said that it was possible his son’s journalism might have antagonised some people.

“We always asked Ahmad Shah to let us know if there was any threat made against him, but ever since he began his career, he never shared such concerns with his family,” his father said.

Mirwais called on the Afghan government to find his son’s murderers and bring them to justice.

Khost police chief Abdul Hanan said that Shah had been killed in the Mando Khail area of the province.

“The cause of his murder is still unknown, but is being investigated,” he said.

Current and former colleagues of Shah expressed their grief and shock over his death.

Hafizullah Gardesh, IWPR’s senior local editor, had worked with Shah since 2013, including participating with a number of trainings over the years.

Shah’s last feature for IWPR, looking at local government’s failure to deliver a promised business park in Khost, was published on January 5, 2018.

(See also Afghan Entrepreneurs Bemoan Lack of State Support).

“When I heard the news of Ahmad Shah’s death, all of a sudden I saw him in my mind, his energy, his chubby face, white clothes, courteous eyes and smiles,” Gardesh said, recalling that he had immediately broken down in tears.

“Ahmad Shah was such a hardworking and industrious young man who was really going places and had already earned a high reputation in the Afghan media,” Gardesh continued, adding that Shah had been particularly skilled in identifying as-yet-untold stories that deserved public attention.

“Ahmad Shah was so energetic. He was so quick in his work… indeed a professional journalist.”

Shah studied journalism at Khost’s Shikh Zahid university, graduating in 2011. He went on to spend a year working as programme manager for the province’s Kilid Radio.

Kilid director Norajan Bahir said that Shah’s interest in social justice and human rights had been clear at his job interview.

“He was a hardworking person, he was passionate about his job and always ensured that his work was of a high quality,” Bahir recalled, adding that Shah was particularly interested in giving disadvantaged people a voice through his reports.

“He was also a very moderate, courteous and considerate person.”

Shah went on to contribute to various media outlets including Sta Radio, Zwan Ghag Radio and Khidmatgar Daily. He had been working for the BBC for more than a year at the time of his death.

BBC World Service director Jamie Angus called the murder a “devastating loss”.

Sahel Mangal, a friend of Shah and a Pajhwok reporter in Khost and Paktia provinces, also said that he had been a diligent reporter who took an in-depth approach to covering critical issues.

“Four years ago I met Ahmad Shah at a press event and I soon felt as if we had been friends for years. We helped each other over the years,” he said. “He was a soft-hearted person and never said a spiteful word about anyone.”

For more on Ahmad Shah's work for IWPR, click here.