Maydan Wardak journalists call independent media critical for Afghanistan’s future
MAIDAN SHAHR - Participants at a UN-backed event in the central province of Maydan Wardak stressed the importance of a free and independent press to social and economic development, and called for the protection of journalists across Afghanistan.
Organized by the Kabul regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the event brought together more than 30 Maydan Wardak journalists, along with provincial civil society representatives and government officials to discuss the state of media freedom in the region and across the country.
In the lively discussion, journalists expressed concern about the violence directed against media workers in the country, and called for greater accountability for those who seek to silence free media. They also highlighted the importance of a free and independent media for the social and economic development of Afghanistan.
The civil society members and government officials in attendance echoed those concerns and discussed the many ways that a free press contributes to so development.
Speaking at the event, Maidan Wardak’s deputy governor, Mohammad Amin Mubaligh, acknowledged that government has a duty to safeguard freedom of expression against those who would try to enforce their views through violence.
“Afghanistan’s government supports a strong and independent media,” he said, stressing that a free press presenting accurate news and information is crucial for social and economic development because it keeps citizens informed and brings communities closer together.
While media outlets have proliferated across the country in recent years, Afghanistan still ranks as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists to work.
“Afghan journalists have paid the ultimate price for trying to inform their fellow citizens,” said Renaud Detalle, UNAMA’s Deputy Chief of Human Rights, during a Kabul event earlier this month to commemorate the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
“The government is the primary duty bearer and has the responsibility to protect media against threats and intimidations from within or outside the government and provide the means for them to operate in safety,” he said.
Globally, violence against journalists has been rising, with perpetrators often not brought to justice. Some 90 per cent of cases concerning the killing of journalists remain unpunished, according to UNESCO. Between 2006 and 2016, UNESCO documented the killing of 930 journalists, the majority of whom were local journalists, reporting local stories.
In 2013, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution to make 2 November the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The resolution called for member states to implement measures countering the culture of impunity.
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 that the 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.