Journalists in Afghanistan’s south work to build support for peace
KANDAHAR - In the southern region of Afghanistan, the UN is working on a new initiative to leverage the power of local radio and television to build support for peace.
In an event this week, the regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) joined with the Kandahar Press Club to bring journalists together from across Afghanistan’s southern provinces to strategize on building peace in an area of the country where the conflict has taken an especially heavy toll on normal life.
The challenges the journalists face in Afghanistan’s south are similar to those in other areas of the country, with insecurity ranking at the top of the list along with the spread of misinformation and the proliferation of propaganda. Despite the challenges, journalists gathered at the event said the best way to form the groundwork for peace is to maintain trust among communities.
“We have established communication channels with local communities,” said Sadiqullah Afghan, a Kandahar journalist. “Media has an important role in raising awareness to create an environment of trust and confidence.”
The country’s southern provinces have suffered some of the deadliest fighting in Afghanistan during the past 10 years, leaving behind damaged infrastructure and displacing thousands of families.
One stark example of the conflict can be found in Uruzgan province, located about 500 kilometres southwest of Kabul, where only a handful of schools remain open. Fewer than ten schools are fully functional there, and those are located in the relative safety of Tirin Kot, Uruzgan’s capital. Some three hundred schools have been closed by insurgents operating in the province.
Mohammad Haidary, a radio producer from Helmand province, said journalists are especially important in countering the propaganda associated with such devastation. “We produce programmes that are aimed at raising awareness about important issues, and nothing can be more important than peace,” he said, noting that media can help open a door for dialogue.
UNAMA has been working with media not only in the country’s south, but also in other parts of Afghanistan, to build support for Afghan-led peace and reconciliation efforts. Since 2015, UNAMA has supported journalists’ forums to provide media workers an opportunity to network, share their experiences, and most importantly bring communities together through accurate news and reporting.
In the five southern provinces, where educational facilities and government services have fallen prey to heavy fighting, there are more than 30 independent radio outlets and four private television stations .
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.