Media’s role in protecting human rights spotlighted at northeast symposium

16 Dec 2018

Media’s role in protecting human rights spotlighted at northeast symposium

KUNDUZ - An ongoing countrywide campaign is underscoring the importance of media freedom and access to information as essential tools that can help foster peace and uphold human rights in Afghanistan.

The initiative, coordinated by the regional offices of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), consists of radio programmes and off-air events that join provincial officials with human rights advocates and journalists so they can engage in lively debate about what freedom of expression means, how access to information can support the work of the media, and where civil society and media professionals can collaborate with government to strengthen human rights.

In the most recent event, held in the north-eastern province of Kunduz, civil society activists, government officials and media professionals gathered to strategize on the role of media in raising awareness about the promotion and protection of human rights.

At the event in the Kunduz provincial capital, Deputy Governor Hashmatulla Rahimi Arzbegi stressed the need for media to focus on human rights violations and urged media to continue to advocate for the protection of human rights.

“We should not forget the important and impartial role the media plays in institutionalizing human rights as a culture,” said Arzbegi.

Media professionals who participated in the event, noting that security and information access are significant impediments to day-to-day work in the north-eastern provinces, jointly resolved to collaborate on efforts to protect and promote human rights.

“In addition to providing required information to citizens, we promise not to give up efforts to protect their rights and investigate rights violations,” said Zabihulla Majidi, a Kunduz-based journalist.

The event was covered by several local media outlets, with the broadcasters later airing the programmes to audiences estimated at 500,000 people in and around the provincial capital.

In recent years, media watchdogs have tracked and documented how journalists in Afghanistan have been targeted with both threats and violence in their pursuit to inform the public. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Afghanistan ranks among the deadliest countries in the world to be a journalist.

UNAMA continues to work with advocacy groups and institutions, including provincial councils, religious leaders, youth groups, women’s groups and local media outlets, to create platforms, using radio, social media and television, to enable Afghans to engage in dialogue on pressing issues affecting their communities.

At almost every UNAMA-backed event, local media partners not only record the discussions and debates for later rebroadcast, but also create new programmes around the issues that are raised, extending the discussion and creating new opportunities for local voices to be heard on issues such as peace, reconciliation, government transparency, human rights and rule of law.

In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.

UNAMA provides 'good offices' and other key services, including diplomatic steps that draw on the organization’s independence, impartiality and integrity to prevent disputes from arising, escalating or spreading. The Mission coordinates international support for Afghan development and humanitarian priorities.