JALALABAD/KABUL (Reuters) - Gunmen shot and killed a female television journalist, who was also a women's rights activist, in Afghanistan on Thursday, an incident that underscores an increasing trend of violence against journalists in the country.
Malalai Maiwand, a reporter at Enikas Radio and TV in Nangarhar, was killed along with her driver in an attack on their vehicle in Jalalabad, capital of the eastern province of Nangarhar, taking the total number of journalists and media workers killed this year in Afghanistan to 10.
"She was on the way to office when the incident happened," Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor, said.
The area has been a hotbed of militant activity, most notably involving Islamic State, but no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Afghan interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said that in the last decade and a half, the vast majority of journalists killed have been victims of the Taliban.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied the group's involvement in the incident.
Enikas has been targeted before, with its owner, Engineer Zalmay, kidnapped for ransom in 2018.
Maiwand is also not the first of her family to be targeted. Five years ago, her mother, also an activist, was killed by unknown gunmen.
"With the killing of Malalai, the working field for female journalists is getting more smaller and the journalists may not dare to continue their jobs the way they were doing before," Nai, an organisation supporting media in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
Last month, Elyas Dayee, a Radio Azadi journalist, was killed in a bomb blast in the southern Helmand province, and Yama Siawash, a former TOLOnews presenter, was killed in a similar blast in Kabul.
The Afghan government, German embassy, EU delegation and Britsh ambassador condemned growing attacks on journalists and activists.
International donors and governments have also expressed apprehension about a possible reversal of progress on women's rights over the last two decades if the Taliban return to any sort of power with the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country next year.
The Taliban's hardline rule was marked by oppressive laws for women up until the group was toppled following a 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul and Ahmad Sultan in Nangarhar; Writing by Gibran Peshimam)