Concerns as Government in Afghanistan Bows to Hardline Pressure

 The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its associate, the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA), in expressing growing concern about the Government of Afghanistan bowing to pressure from hardliners seeking to obstruct Afghan journalists’ hard-won right to freedom of expression and an independent media.

AIJA has called for public discussion about freedom of expression and the media in Afghanistan in an effort to raise awareness among authorities and across the wider community about the importance of a free and independent media in a democracy.

AIJA’s call comes after the Ministry of Information and Culture warned four private television stations this week to stop broadcasting five Indian soap operas by April 15. The ban was instituted after a meeting of clerics, members of parliament and television station owners following alleged complaints from the public, AIJA reported.

The ban underlines the challenges confronting independent journalists and media institutions in Afghanistan. AIJA is especially concerned about journalists being targeted in relation to similar pressure from groups opposed to discussion about the role of Islam and women in Afghan society.

The most prominent example is the death sentence imposed on Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh, 23, a journalism student and reporter for the Jahan-e Naw. Parvez is accused of blasphemy for allegedly downloading and disseminating materials about the role of women in Islam. He was sentenced by the primary court of Balkh province in a closed-door trial at which he was denied legal representation on January 22. He has been transferred to a prison in Kabul while his sentence is appealed.

The role and portrayal of women in the media is a component of AIJA’s training program under the IFJ-AIJA Media for Democracy project. Twenty-eight journalists, including 12 women, attended the fourth and final workshop in the series in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province on April 2 and 3.

It was the first time that a large group of women journalists have attended such training in a remote provincial area, the AIJA said. The training is intended to boost journalists’ knowledge and skills in the practices and processes of democratic elections.

”Democracy’s success depends on a viable, critical and independent media that gives voice and makes space for a range of competing views and ideas about society,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

“The IFJ calls on the Government of Afghanistan to refrain from interventions to restrict free expression and a free media. In particular, it demands that the death sentence against Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh be repealed.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries