Protecting press freedom in Afghanistan

3 May 2009

Protecting press freedom in Afghanistan

KABUL - Press freedom has never been more important for Afghanistan. Later this year Afghanistan will be holding Presidential and Provincial Council Elections.

The media will play a central role in helping the people of Afghanistan to make their voting decision. No decision could be more important for Afghanistan and its people.

The growth of Afghanistan’s media has been a beacon of hope in this region. Few countries have seen the progress we have seen here in Afghanistan in recent years. While there has been tremendous progress their have also been setbacks, attacks by insurgents continue and harassment and coercion of reporters is common place.

This should remind us that protecting hard won press freedoms is process and not an event. All of us must continue the struggle to ensure that the people of Afghanistan have free and fair access to information. UNAMA stands shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan’s journalists in this struggle.

On our part UNAMA with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission will jointly monitor freedom of expression during the 2009 election period. We intend to issue three public reports which will record violations and promote remedies to ensure that the Afghan’s people right to freedom of expression is protected and promoted.

We know that there are wide differences of opinions on this vital issue. That is why this year’s press freedom day theme of ‘reconciliation and dialogue’ is so pertinent to Afghanistan.

We can only overcome differences through constructive dialogue and engaging with those parties that disagree with us. Without dialogue their can be no progress with press freedom.

At the same time I want to take this opportunity to remind parties on both sides of this debate that they have a duty to respect the independence of the press, attacks and harassment of journalists in any progressive society is totally unacceptable.

Aleem Siddique, UNAMA