Empowering media professionals in Afghanistan’s east the focus of UN-backed event

10 May 2016

Empowering media professionals in Afghanistan’s east the focus of UN-backed event

JALALABAD - Empowering journalists and strengthening a free press were key topics at a UN-backed event in Jalalabad recently, bringing together media professionals from across the eastern region.

Nearly 30 Afghan journalists, from independent and state-run media outlets operating at the local, national and international levels, attended the one-day event hosted by the regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

Participants attending the event, including representatives from journalist associations, a human rights organization and the local government, canvassed concerns about the operation of the media at the provincial level. Other key topics included the media’s important role in providing accurate information to communities, press freedom and journalist safety.

“Freedom of speech is important for the development of societies, development of the human mind and promotion of human rights,” said Sabrina Hamidi, Head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, speaking at the event.

Ms. Hamidi described how the Commission works to support journalists through advocacy campaigns and by lobbying government officials about the importance of freedom of expression.

Other participants focused on journalist safety as a major challenge, citing reports about violence against journalists in the eastern region, and indicating that insecurity and interference from powerful figures have limited the media’s ability to report on current events and issues.

Shafiqullah Waak, a UNAMA official, outlined the right to information as enshrined in Afghanistan’s constitution. “It is crucial that both media who seek information on behalf of citizens and public servants who have that information understand the principles of the right to know,” said Mr. Waak. “Without access to information, there will not be transparency in governance.”

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides good offices; promotes coherent development support by the international community; supports 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.