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Elections come hand in hand with violence

2018 saw numerous elections in the region: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Malaysia, South Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Maldives.

Pakistan (near the bottom of the 3rd quartile) held some of the most violent elections in recent history. The Tehreek-e-Insaf party – headed by former national cricket captain, Imran Khan – won the July national elections, though opposition parties said the votes were rigged and that the military had been overly involved.[1]

Journalists reported being attacked by supporters of political parties in the lead-up to elections, as well as obstructions at polling stations on the day itself, and the military disrupted distribution of the Dawn newspaper.[2]

Pre-election violence went well beyond the media, claiming lives of voters and candidates alike.[3] Bomb attacks targeted several election rallies, including an assembly of the Balochistan Awami Party on 13 July, where 129 people were killed. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing, which was the country’s worst attack since 2014.[4]

Afghanistan (3rd quartile) continued to suffer violence amid poor security conditions for both citizens and journalists, in a crisis exacerbated by its 2018 elections. 16 journalists were killed in Afghanistan during 2018.[5] ISIS and the Taliban claimed responsibility for a number of attacks during the year.

On 30 April, a double suicide bombing – perpetrated by militants posing as members of the press to target the media – killed nine journalists and injured eight in capital city Kabul. Hours later, an unidentified gunman in Khōst (a city in the south of the country) killed another journalist.

Violence is worsening in Afghanistan. Its perpetrators range from extremist groups to police and security forces, and even private militias, which politicians and provincial strongmen create and arm. Though their function is to resist opposition groups, including the Taliban, these militias pose another threat to the media, and even collaborate with the Taliban – especially in Ghōr province, where they destroyed two radio stations in 2018.[6]


[1] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2019, available at

[2] Committee to Protect Journalists, Pakistani Authorities Disrupt Distribution of Dawn Newspaper, 22 May 2018, available at

[3] Anas Saleem, ‘Bombings in Pakistan ahead of elections kill 170, thwarting hopes of a peaceful vote’, Global Voices, 18 July 2018, available at

[4] Asad Hashim, ‘133 dead after two separate attacks on Pakistan political rallies’, Al Jazeera, 14 July 2018, available at

[5] UNESCO, UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists: Afghanistan, 2019, available at

[6] Reporters without Borders, Who Persecutes Journalists in Afghanistan?, 18 May 2018, available at