New IFJ Report Assesses Press Freedom in Afghanistan

The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Afghan Independent

Journalists’ Association (AIJA), announce the release of a new report which

outlines the challenges for journalists and press freedom in Afghanistan since the lead-up to

the country’s elections in 2009 and 2010.

 

The report, Journalism

in Times of War: Press Freedom in Afghanistan 2008-2011, was prepared

with the support of the European Union (EU) and documents how journalism in Afghanistan

continues to be scarred by seemingly endless conflict, despite making rapid

strides in a changing environment.

 

Among the most significant

achievements of journalists in Afghanistan

is that they have put in place a nascent media rights monitoring network, with

the most serious instances of media rights violations reported to a world

audience, the report says. This has been accomplished with the invaluable

support of the international donor community.

 

“Journalism in Afghanistan has moved forward

significantly over the past decade, compressing into a short period a learning

experience that has taken much longer in other countries with less difficult legal

and political environments,” IFJ Asia-Pacific

Director Jacqueline Park said.

 

“Yet Journalism in Times of War stresses that threats remain in the

culture of violence in the country, which could undermine the gains registered

so far.”

 

“Media sustainability, too, may not

be achieved for long, failing the continuing commitment of the international

donor community.”

 

A mapping of media rights violations

in Afghanistan

since 2008 seems to suggest a decline in the hazards that journalists face. But

the decline in physical hazards, though of some consequence, does not yet mean

that journalism is able to function in a congenial environment.

 

Threats from non-state armed groups

remain a constant danger. And state agencies are often known to respond

adversely to legitimate critical commentary in the media, commonly putting the

liberty of journalists at risk.

 

For all the years since the fall of

the Taliban Islamic regime, independent media in Afghanistan expanded and diversified,

though without a coherent regulatory framework or governance structure.

 

Afghanistan’s mass

media law was formally granted presidential assent in July 2009. Yet there was

a delay of two months in publishing the full text of the Act and there have been

disagreements ever since on the mode of its implementation.

 

In this regulatory vacuum, various

political interest groups, members of parliament and leaders of non-state

militias have begun their own media operations.

 

Professionalism is also impeded by

the incursion of ethnic and partisan calculations into the functioning of the

media. Independent media, in the strict sense, have very slender chances of

survival because of the lack of advertising support. The many media outlets

that have established a credible niche for their professional reporting and

content remain dependent on donor agencies. The more partisan media can count

on subventions from political groups, though this does little to enhance the

credibility of the media as an institution.

 

Journalism

in Times of War is the second report prepared by the IFJ with the

AIJA, following publication of Growth

Under Adversity, released in 2008.

 

The English version of the report is

now available at http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/pages/ifj-asia-pacific-reports.

Dari and Pashto versions will be available in late June.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +61 2 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

 

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IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

 

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