Access to information and accurate reporting the focus of UN-backed Daikundi event
NILI - Improving media access to information affecting provincial communities and ensuring ethically sound journalism were the topics of a two-day, UN-backed event in the central province of Daikundi this week.
More than 50 people, including the provincial governor, media representatives and civil society members gathered at the event, which was organized by the Bamyan regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to discuss ways to improve transparency in government through professional journalism.
“Media plays a significant role in raising public awareness,” said Masuma Muradi, Daikundi’s Governor. “A free media and their access to information are essential for good governance.”
Ms Muradi went on to say that only through high-quality reporting can government work effectively to build consensus and keep local communities apprised of progress and setbacks in the development programmes provincial governments are working to implement.
In Daikundi, as in other areas of Afghanistan, journalists frequently do not have access to all the resources necessary to obtain and verify information, whether due to security constraints or for other reasons, and often resort to citing second- and third-hand sources, leaving audiences to draw their own conclusions about news developments.
Anwar Shahab, the manager of Radio Daikundi, a local FM station, said one of the fundamental issues affecting accurate reporting is that government employees do not know enough about the access-to-information law. Other employees, he said, have declared large categories of information confidential.
“This event is a good opportunity to raise awareness about the law and discuss the challenges media face in obtaining information,” he said.
Participants at the event recommended establishing a provincial commission, not only to work to improve the situation for media professionals by liaising with government offices on details about the Access to Information law, but also to monitor media reports and ensure their accuracy.
Afghanistan’s constitution recognizes the right of every citizen to access information from government offices. This constitutional right might be limited only in narrow circumstances where disclosure would harm the rights of other citizens or threaten national security. To better clarify this constitutional right, Afghanistan adopted in December 2014 the Access to Information Law, and implemented it in 2015.
An edited version of the discussion recorded during the two-day event in Daikundi’s capital was broadcast by local radio outlets to an audience estimated at 150,000 people in and around the city.
UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides 'good offices' among other key services. 'Good offices' are diplomatic steps UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.
UNAMA also promotes coherent development support by the international community; assists the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.