We, the representatives of journalists’ unions and associations across the Asia-Pacific region, meeting in Kuala Lumpur, call on the President and Government of Afghanistan to take immediate action to overturn the death penalty imposed on Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh on January 22, 2008.
As Asia-Pacific affiliates and partners of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), jointly fighting for freedom of expression and the media in all countries and communities of our region, we condemn in the strongest terms the decision by the primary court of Balkh province to sentence Parvez to death on charges of blasphemy.
We demand the Government and President of Afghanistan show their commitment to a new, free and open Afghanistan by immediately intervening to overturn the sentence and withdraw the charges against Parvez, and to take appropriate steps to institute prompt reform of the legal system to ensure such judgments cannot be applied in the future.
We are seriously concerned that Parvez was denied legal representation and that the court hearing was closed to journalists and human rights organisations. The opaque judicial process applied to Parvez’s case serves only to highlight that the decision of the court is tragically flawed.
We encourage the Government to continue the parliamentary process now under way to revise and refine Article 45 of the Afghan Media Law. The President and the Government have already acknowledged that ambiguity in Article 45 pertaining to legal definitions must be resolved.
We call on the Government to fulfill Afghanistan’s constitutional commitment to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to abide by the Afghan Media Law to ensure freedom of expression is respected and upheld for all citizens in Afghanistan.
Article 34 of Afghanistan’s Constitution clearly defends the right to freedom of expression, in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 34 states: “… freedom of expression shall be inviolable. Every Afghan shall have the right to express thoughts through speech, writing, illustrations as well as other means in accordance with provisions of this Constitution.”
The Balkh court, in choosing to argue for the authority of Sharia law, under Article 130 of the Constitution, has trampled over the spirit of the Constitution’s stated aim of defending the fundamental freedoms of the people of Afghanistan, including freedom of expression.
We urge the President and the Government to recognise that press freedom and democracy cannot prevail in Afghanistan if courts are permitted to apply a spurious judicial discretion to override the constitutionally bound right of all citizens in Afghanistan to express their views freely without fear of punishment.
We believe that clarification of Article 45 of the Afghan Media Law will remove the ability of courts to refer to Article 130 of the Constitution in cases related to freedom of expression and the media.
The sentence against Parvez must be revoked immediately.
Signed by leaders of the following organisations, in Kuala Lumpur for the regional meeting of IFJ Asia-Pacific:
Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI)
Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA)
All India Newspaper Employees Federation (AINEF)
Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ)
Cambodian Association for Protection of Journalists (CAPJ)
Confederation of Mongolian Journalists (CMJ)
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, New Zealand (EPMU)
Federation of Media Employee’s Trade Unions (FMETU)
Free Media Movement (FMM)
Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ)
Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA)
IFJ Asia Pacific
Indian Journalists Union (IJU)
National Union of Journalists, Malaysia (NUJM)
Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA)
Nepal Press Union (NPU)
National Union of Journalists (India) (NUJI)
National Union of Journalists, Nepal (NUJN)
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ)
Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA)
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries