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Abdul Hamid Hotaki

An Afghan reporter has died from injuries suffered in an explosion near the election campaign headquarters of President Ashraf Ghani in the city of Kandahar.

Hewad TV said in a Facebook post on September 25 that Abdul Hamid Hotaki died in hospital from "heavy wounds" suffered in the blast, which killed three others, including a child, and wounded at least seven.

"Hotaki is the seventh journalist to be killed in #Afghanistan in 2019," the Afghanistan Journalists Center said in a tweet noting Hotaki's death.

The Interior Ministry has blamed the attack on Taliban militants, though no one has taken responsibility for the explosion, which comes just days before a presidential election on September 28.

Afghanistan is the world's deadliest conflict, and security fears have been a hallmark of the campaign, even in the heavily guarded capital, Kabul.

Ghani, the incumbent, has mostly campaigned remotely, addressing small gatherings outside the heavily militarized capital via Skype or telephone.

Ghani and his leading rival, Abdullah Abdullah, are expected to place first and second respectively among the 16 candidates in the election. The top two vote getters will then head to a runoff election.

A suicide bombing that killed 26 people last week near an election rally in Parwan Province, north of Kabul, where Ghani was due to speak, came as a sharp reminder of the dangers.

The Taliban group that ruled much of the country until 2001 and opposes Afghanistan's central government is estimated to control or contest nearly half of Afghanistan's 400 districts, depriving many in rural regions of the right to vote.

The Taliban considers the Afghan government a U.S. puppet and has warned Afghans not to vote, saying that polling stations will be targeted by militant attacks.

Kazakh journalist Amangeldy Batyrbekov (file photo)

SARYAGHASH, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan's southern town of Saryaghash has sentenced journalist Amangeldy Batyrbekov to two years and 10 months on libel charges.

The court on September 23 found Batyrbekov guilty of insulting the dignity and honor of a local education official, Bakhtiyar Abdiev, in a Facebook post entitled "Idiocy in Keles" and sentenced him the same day.

Batyrbekov's wife, Gulzada Baimuratova, told RFE/RL that the ruling will be appealed.

In 2017, Batyrbekov was sentenced to 18 months of freedom limitation -- a suspended sentence with parole-like restrictions, for insulting a deputy prosecutor in the Saryaghash district in a newspaper article.

The Almaty-based Adil Soz (A Just Word) human rights group called Batyrbekov a prisoner of conscience.

According to Adil Soz, at least nine journalists in Kazakhstan have faced criminal persecution on libel charges in the first four months of 2019.

International human rights organization have called on Kazakhstan to revoke an article in the Criminal Code that sets out criminal prosecution for libel.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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