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Afghanistan: Former Female TV Presenter Shot Dead In Kabul

A female Afghan television presenter was shot dead yesterday in Kabul. She moderated a popular music program that had angered conservatives before she left her job under unclear circumstances in March. Police say it is not clear yet whether her killing is related to her work. An investigation has been launched into her killing. Reporters Without Borders says Shaima Rezayee is the first journalist to be killed in Afghanistan since the end of the war in 2001.

Prague, 19 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Shaima Rezayee was shot dead yesterday in her home in Kabul's Char Gala District.

The 24-year-old Rezayee had until March presented a popular music program on the privately owned television station Tolu TV. The show was criticized by conservatives as anti-Islamic and immoral.

Rezayee told Reuters in February that she had many fans, but she added that some Afghans were unhappy with her work and that she wore Western-style clothing. "Whenever I go out, some people say some [bad] things," she said. "But there are more who praise me. Especially my family -- and a lot of young people in this country encourage me."

The police chief of the Afghan capital has told Western news agencies that Rezayee was shot, but that it is unclear who perpetrated the killing and whether it was related to her work. According to unconfirmed reports from Kabul, two of her brothers who were home at the time of the killing have been arrested.

Said Soleiman Ashna, a news presenter at Tolu TV, says Rezayee's death has saddened her fans and former colleagues.

"We are all sad and feel sorry for the death of our colleague," Ashna said. "Shaima Rezayee was one of our best colleagues. She used to present an entertainment program. Yesterday we [heard] the news that she is dead, but we still don't know if she was killed or committed suicide. She became famous in a very short time. We have very good memories of her."

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has expressed "shock" at the killing and called for a thorough and independent investigation into Rezayee's death. The French media watchdog says Rezayee was fired from Tolu TV after she was personally criticized by conservatives for her on-screen behavior.

TV Tolu Director Saad Mohseni denies the report. He told RFE/RL that Rezayee decided to leave the station because the work schedule did not suit her. "The conditions were such that she could not work full time; therefore, she wanted to work several hours, several days and both sides agreed that she should leave Tolu," he said. "It happened three or four months ago."

Mohseni says it is very unlikely that Rezayee was killed because of her former job. "As far as we know she had never been threatened," he said. "There are other people in Tolu who are being threatened every day because of their work, because of the way they present the news. There are people who are not happy about it [the way news is presented] -- especially about our news and documentary programs. But we are not aware that Shaima Rezayee had received threats. We have to wait for the police investigation to be finalized then we can comment."

Mohseni says several other young girls present Western, Indian, and Persian music videos on the program called "Hop" that Shaima used to moderate. The program is similar to that of the international music channel MTV.

Several conservative clerics had voiced concern that "Hop" and similar programs corrupt young Afghans by promoting anti-Islamic values. But Tolu managers reject the arguments and say there is nothing anti-Islamic about the programs.

It is not clear when the results of the police investigation into Shaima Rezayee's killing will be made public.

(RFE/RL's Afghan Service correspondent Sultan Sarwar contributed to this report.)