Afghanistan: AIJA becomes AIJU, interview with Hujatulla Mujadidi

Umesh Pokharel, the South Asia Coordinator of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) spoke to Hujatullah Mujadidi, President of the Union of Independent Journalists of Afghanistan (AIJU), on the reasoning behind the organisation’s recent name change, from Association to Union.

Afghanistan Independent Journalists Union head Hujatullah Mujadidi talks with Lima Spesaly on May 28. Credit: Wakil Kohsar / AFP

Why was the organisation’s name change from AIJA to AIJU needed?

As always, we wanted to continue our work to protect and promote the rights of journalists all over Afghanistan. However, it is not possible in the current political system if we remain an ‘association’. This apart, by converting our status to ‘union’, we wanted to get full membership of the IFJ. For the three mentioned reasons, it was necessary to organise the congress of the AIJA and change the ‘association’ to ‘union’. Then, we formally submitted an application for a ‘license’ in the new name and we received it on August 7, 2022. The license was issued by the Ministry of Justice.  

What major changes did you make to the constitution after changing the name of the organisation?  

Most of the structure of the organisation, logo and others are the same. Changes to the constitution and some of its provisions are major revisions. Now, we have a mandate to work all over Afghanistan and the same is reflected in the constitution. We have a policy to increase the number of members representing from all over the country. We have provisions of gender, youth, and safety committees. By all means, the AIJU is prepared to move ahead with its renewed energy.  

What positive result do you expect from the changes?  

We will have more members. We will work across Afghanistan more than ever before. Since we have got the updated license of the union to operate all over Afghanistan, we will have a strong network all over Afghanistan. Journalists all over Afghanistan can benefit from our support. We will continue our work to defend and protect the rights and improve the capacity of journalists. 

What is the AIJU’s current agenda?  

First, the AIJU is lobbying for salary assistance for journalists in Afghanistan. We have submitted this proposal to the UN. Apart from this, we have lobbied with the local government bodies to waive the media frequency tax and collect the rest of the tax in instalments considering the financial difficulties of the media. Also, we are negotiating with the municipalities to ease the fee payment of the media to the municipalities. Likewise, we are lobbying to for a subsidised electricity rate for media houses. Other activities we are concentrating on are the implementation of laws and bylaws related to the media. Apart from this, monitoring the rights of the media and making the Taliban more responsible and accountable for the rights of the media is another of our priorities. 

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