Mourning Press Freedom in Afghanistan

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.

 

CORRECTION:

 

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