Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Death of a journalist

Jawed Ahmad, aka Javed Yazamy, a cheerful Afghan photojournalist and translator, was shot dead yesterday by an unidentified gunman in broad daylight in the streets of Kabul.

"Jojo," the name he was widely known by, did a lot of work as a "fixer" with CTV and other Western news sources. Recently he was actively seeking a Canadian visa to permit him to leave Afghanistan this Spring, and had asked a number of Canadian journalists for assistance.

He was young, brash and, it seems, more than a little naive--he was taken in by the so-called Nigerian scam in 2007, and owed a lot of money to his family. But his abilities, energy and courage made him invaluable as a stringer for foreign news services. The right wing hated him because, as a local, he was able to move back and forth between the enemy camps and interview Taliban spokesmen. Until recently, of course, talking to the Taliban was considered an act of treason by the keyboard warriors. Just ask Taliban Jack. Or, for that matter, Taliban Hamid, Taliban Gordon, Taliban Barack and Taliban Steve.

In October, 2007, he was swept up by US forces, for whom he had done work as a translator)
, named an "enemy combatant," and subsequently tortured for eleven months at the Kandahar Air Field and later at the US interrogation centre in Bagram. Canada, as in the cases of Maher Arar and Abousfian Abdelrazik, once again seems to have played the odious role of the "policeman's friend." He suffered a number of beatings (one of which broke two of his ribs), prolonged sleep deprivation and other "enhanced interrogation techniques."

"I came from hell," said Jojo when he was freed last September. "Now I'm back."

Reporters Without Borders suggests that he was killed by the Taliban, although it's unclear what their motive might have been, and they have denied it. We do know that the Karzai government is wary of independent journalists, and last month packed one of them off to prison for twenty years for having the temerity to question the role of women under Islam. And Jojo was beginning work on a book detailing his experiences at the hands of his US captors in Bagram.

In any case, more here from the never predictable Rosie DiManno.

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