December 22, 2015
The voice of a journalist who until recently used to work at radio stations in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province can now be heard in the provincial capital, Jalalabad, and neighboring districts as the voice of Islamic State’s new “caliphate radio.”
Former colleagues are quick to recognize the voice of Sultan Aziz Ezam, who worked for three local radio stations over the course of a decade, covering primarily land issues.
Now, that voice is issuing death threats.
Local newsmen hear their former colleague — or some imitator — accusing them of “working for foreigners” and saying they are on the IS death watch list for their reporting practices.
“I know the addresses of houses of all those journalists who are working with different media organizations in Jalalabad, and will find them and will kill them,” he declares.
Journalists ‘very scared’
VOA could not independently confirm the identity of the IS radio anchor. But local Afghan journalists say they are alarmed by the threats and are taking them seriously, because they recognize the voice.
“All journalists in Jalalabad are aware of the threats and are very scared,” one local journalist told VOA.
About 50 reporters in Nangarhar work for local and international news outlets.
Journalists say Ezam and his brother recently left their work at a local radio station, and Ezam had not been heard from until his voice surfaced on the IS broadcasts.
The Nangarhar governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogianay, told reporters that the provincial government was aware of the threats to journalists.
“We have started working on a mechanism to protect reporters,” he said, offering no specifics. “We are hopeful, if we are successful in creating the mechanism, that reporters will feel safe.”
The Nangarhar communications directorate has said that because of technical reasons, the radio has not yet been taken off the air.
FM radio broadcasts by IS started recently along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and are the voice of terror in a region where IS terrorist fighters are active.
IS launched the channel as the “Voice of Khelafat [Caliphate].”
It is not hard to find on the radio dial. The two-hour daily evening broadcasts include Quranic recitations, Arabic nasheed (Islamic chanting), interviews with IS fighters and anti-government propaganda.
The channel also airs interviews with IS mullahs who issue fatwahs against those who work with the Afghan army and government, with the Pakistan army and for foreigners in Afghanistan.
Pakistani and Afghan officials say they are hunting for the broadcasters; they believe the signal emanates from a mobile transmitter in the mountains.
The governor of Achin district, Haji Ghaleb, told VOA that the radio station has been set up in the Achin district along the border with Pakistan.
Achin has recently seen an increasing presence of IS fighters who have launched multiple attacks on Afghan security forces in the district.
VOA reporters contributed to this report from Jalalabad.