Declaration on freedom of expression in Afghanistan
KABUL - Afghan journalists have issued a declaration on Freedom of Expression in Afghanistan expressing their concerns and proposals for a free media in the country.
A one day conference brought together journalists and editors, media and civil society organizations, representatives from the Government and parliament, donors and policy makers, human rights activists and international organizations. The aim was to provide a platform for dialogue and discussion on ways to enhance the promotion and protection of freedom of expression and the safety and security of those working in the media.
After the establishment of a new administration in Afghanistan in 2001 there’s been a remarkable growth in the media in the country. However concerns have been raised recently by many Afghan journalists and human rights organizations on the media situation in Afghanistan.
“In the months leading up to the 2009 elections, the media will continue to self-censor or be pressured into broadcasting only those views which are favourable to certain political interests and candidates and citizens will be intimidated through threats and attacks from fully expressing their opinions,” wrote the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay in her annual report to the Human Rights Council in March.
At the Kabul conference Afghan journalists discussed freedom of expression issues including freedom of information, the security of journalists, rule of law and transparency.
“Our main concerns include the role of the media to monitor the democratic processes such as the coming elections, our colleagues in jails and the fact that the polarised media are getting stronger than the independent ones,” said Mr Rahimullah Samandar the head of the Afghanistan Independent Journalists Union.
At the conference a message was read out from President Hamid Karzai: “We believe that no democracy will have any meaning without freedom of expression and that is why securing democracy and freedom of expression are the priorities of Afghanistan’s elected government.”
To better understand the status of freedom of expression in Afghanistan, UNAMA’s Human Rights Unit commissioned a study of among Afghan media outlets and individual journalists to gather views and key concerns on freedom of expression.
“Freedom of expression is not a luxury: it is a basic right for the all people including Afghans,” said UNAMA’s Chief Human Rights officer and Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Afghanistan Norah Niland.
After the conference journalists issued a 23 article declaration in which they expressed concern for media freedoms in Afghanistan especially as the elections approach.
By Nilab Mobarez, UNAMA