Afghan Journalists Catalogue Threats

Attacks on freedom of expression, of movement, of information, and the right to be a member of a journalist union, and also a lack of respect for professional journalists going about their jobs are just some of the media rights violations taking place in Afghanistan according to participants at a national meeting held in Kabul today.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has been training a cadre of specialist media rights violation monitors to report instances of attacks on press freedom.

The team of almost 40 monitors from across the country reported a tragic catalogue of press freedom attacks and almost all could cite recent instances that had occurred to them directly or to colleagues they work with.

They cited violations that include censorship; denial of access to the location of news events; editorial interference; a lack of understanding of journalists’ professional duties leading to abuse, threats and harassment; as well as a spate of recent killings, arrests and detention of journalists.

Those responsible for these violations include police and security forces (including the US-led Coalition), Afghan government authorities, warlords and militias (including both Taliban and those allied to the Hamid Karzai Government) and media owners.

“The situation for Afghan journalists has deteriorated markedly in 2007,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

“Through improved and increased media monitoring we are hearing horrific stories of assaults on press freedom, intimidation of journalists, undermining of independent journalism and attempts to muzzle freedom of expression.

“Afghan journalists have had enough. This new team of media monitors will be making journalists’ collective concerns heard loudly both in Afghanistan and around the world.”

The monitors were receiving training in reporting media rights violations from IFJ personnel as part of a national meeting of Afghan journalists that aims to promote media rights and develop a National Charter on Media for Democracy.

The monitors will now report on each instance of media rights violation and file their reports to the IFJ office in Kabul for dissemination to media and freedom of expression activists around the world.

The IFJ has established a Kabul-based media monitoring and reporting capability to improve the speed and efficiency of notification of media rights violations.

In its first three months it has already been deluged with reports of serious incidents against journalists.

The meeting believes that the Afghan Government must uphold the objectives of Article 2 of its new media law passed last month by the Wolesi Jirga by fulfilling the law’s promise to:

• ‘promote and guarantee the right to freedom of thought and speech;

• protect the rights of journalists and safeguard conditions for the free operations of the mass media;

• promote and develop free and independent media;

• provide a suitable environment for free expression of views and feelings of the citizens...;

• observe the right to freedom of speech and mass media as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’.

“The Government must take steps to safeguard the media and journalists, prosecute those guilty of attacks on journalists and be observed fully promoting freedom of expression across the country,” Park said.

“Journalists must be allowed access to information, news locations and events, and be able to interview sources, check facts and file their stories without the hindrance and interference that currently undermines freedom of expression in Afghanistan,” she said.

“And more must be done to safeguard journalists as they go about their duties.”

The national meeting is part of a three-day summit of senior Afghan journalists who are examining issues including freedom of information, media rights monitoring and the development of a National Charter on Media for Democracy that will be the framework for improved political and election reporting in the lead-up to the 2009 presidential election.

The summit is part of an 18-month IFJ program sponsored by the European Commission.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries