The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is greatly concerned at the decline in press freedom in Afghanistan over the past year, noting that there have been 115 incidents of violence against media personnel, including the killings of five journalists.
The IFJ’s concerns were raised as the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA), an IFJ affiliate, marked World Press Freedom Day yesterday by calling international attention to the dangers and restrictions challenging free media in Afghanistan, including the continuing imprisonment of journalists Ahmad Ghows Zelmay and Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh.
AIJA said its research over the past year indicates growing violence against media personnel in the year leading up to presidential elections in August 2009, with attacks perpetrated by a range of parties including government officials, religious hardliners and armed non-state actors.
AIJA’s media rights monitoring unit recorded 115 cases of violence against media workers and journalists. Five journalists were killed or murdered: Abdul Samad Rohani, Jawed Ahmad Yazemi, Munir Ahmad Amil, Abid Akmal and Mohammad Sabir.
In addition, 25 journalists or media workers were arrested; 24 were assaulted or humiliated by officials; eight were abducted; and 22 received death threats or were intimidated by armed and non-armed factions. Ten other media workers left the country fearing for their safety, while 12 others changed their duty station for the same reason. It is notable that two women journalists in Herat Province left their jobs for safety reasons while two others left the country.
Meanwhile, four media offices were shut down at various times over the year due to pressures from different factions, AIJA said. The Paiman daily in Kabul was closed due to pressures by religious scholars. Spin Ghar Radio in Eastern Nangarhar Province was closed because of efforts by a district chief to bring it under his control. Quyash Radio in Faryab Province had the same problem of official interference. Aghahi monthly in Takhar Province also shut down because of pressure from religious hardliners and governors.
Three media offices came under direct attack: Herat State television, Pashtun Ghagh and the AIJA office in Paktika Province, and a station in Logar Province .
On three occasions, bans were imposed by authorities in Pakistan and Iran on Afghan television channels broadcasting to Afghan immigrants in Pakistan and Iran, thus denying them access to information in their own languages.
“These figures highlight that the country is still a dangerous place for the working journalists, and the Government does less or nothing to ensure press freedom and freedom of expression, which are guaranteed by the Afghan Constitution and the Media Law,” AIJA said in a statement.
While President Hamid Karzai assured AIJA last year that he would review the cases of Zalmay and Kambaksh, and provide support to seek their release, both journalists remain in jail.
The IFJ has revised the above press statement to correct an error in which Akmal Dawi was wrongly identified among the journalists who had been killed in Afghanistan over the preceding year. The original statement inadvertently confused Akmal Dawi with Abid Akmal, a freelance journalist and media relations manager with a public agency in Afghanistan, who was found dead in early September 2008. The IFJ regrets any distress the error has caused Akmal Dawi and his family and friends.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries