Afghan media rights group reports sharp rise in violence against journalists

5 May 2013

Afghan media rights group reports sharp rise in violence against journalists

KABUL - Amid calls for more security for journalists, increased access to information and job security in Afghanistan, a leading Afghan media rights group today reported a sharp rise in violence against Afghan journalists in the first quarter of this year.

At an event in the capital, Kabul, the group, NAI – Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan,’ stated that it had documented 40 cases of violence against journalists between January and April this year, a 100 per cent increase compared to last year’s 20 cases.

Nai had organized the event to mark the World Press Freedom Day, which falls on 3 May, and to recognize journalists for their work. Cash prizes were awarded to three journalists for their extensive reporting on women’s rights.

Proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993, the Day provides opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom throughout the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The theme of this year's Day was ‘Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media.’

In his message for the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the theme highlights the need for action to uphold the right of journalists to carry out their vital work. Over the past decade, more than 600 journalists have been killed around the world – at least 120 in the past year alone.

“The dangers are not only physical: from cyber-attacks to bullying, the powerful are deploying numerous tools to try to stop the media from shedding light on misrule and misdeeds,” said Mr. Ban. “These are individual tragedies; collectively, they are an assault on the right of all people to the truth. I am especially concerned that so many of the perpetrators escape any form of punishment.”

Speaking at the Kabul event today, Nai’s Media Watch/Advocacy Manager, Seddiqullah Tauhidi, called for the strict enforcement of relevant laws and “full protection from all kinds of threats” against journalists. Nai’s Media Watch unit tracks and publishes threats against media workers across Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s budding media industry has seen significant expansion over the past 11 years, with over 800 newspapers, 175 radio stations and some 80 television channels now operating.

However, according to Nai, 34 journalists, including 12 foreigners, have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001. Many cases have yet to be resolved, despite calls from national and international rights groups.

In a series of television and radio round-table discussions held across the country over recent days, organized by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in coordination with local media partners, media experts and officials called for more security for journalists, increased access to information and job security.

Addressing today’s ceremony in Kabul, the Afghan Deputy Minister of Information and Culture, Din Mohammad Mobariz Rashidi, said that upholding freedom of press was “one of the biggest achievements” of the Government of Afghanistan in the past decade and it was committed to defending that freedom.

“The Government does not have any plan to muzzle the independent media in Afghanistan,” he said, while calling on the Afghan media to utilize their freedom “in the best way possible.”

“Achieving the freedom was the first step, now we should work hard to maintain it so that it can contribute to a better life for all of us,” Mr. Rashidi added.

Abdul Hameed Mobarez, a member of the Afghanistan Journalists Federation (AJF), an umbrella media body made up of 20 journalist associations, said that freedom of speech had not yet been institutionalized in the country.

He stressed the need for “conceptual change” in Afghan society and called on its media outlets to organize discussions that could explain democracy for the people and lead the nation towards “a culture of knowledge.”

The AJF, Mr. Mobarez noted, was established earlier this year to collectively defend rights of media workers in Afghanistan, support freedom of speech, ensure greater access to information and boost capacity building of journalists.

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