Statement by Tadamichi Yamamoto on World Press Freedom Day
KABUL - On World Press Freedom Day, the United Nations congratulates Afghanistan for its progress toward a free and open media, which has been hailed as one of the country’s most notable accomplishments.
But on this Day, we are reminded that press freedom in Afghanistan is earned at an unbearable cost. Ten journalists lost their lives on 30 April in calculated, merciless attacks. We cannot but feel indignation at these terrible acts. The United Nations recognizes that Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work, and we reiterate our determination to protect journalist safety and to fight against impunity.
The theme of this year’s Day — Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law — gives special attention to the role of the judiciary in ensuring legal guarantees for media freedom and for the prosecution of crimes against journalists. At the same time, the theme addresses the role of the media in sustainable development, especially during elections and in eliminating corruption, as a watchdog that fosters transparency, accountability and rule of law.
As we celebrate the many successes of the Afghan press corps on World Press Freedom Day, we must also remember the many journalists who have lost their lives while pursuing their noble objectives in Afghanistan. UNAMA documented 14 journalists killed in conflict-related incidents in 2017, and already has verified 11 killed and six injured during the first four months of 2018. Many others have suffered harassment, intimidation and beatings while carrying out their duties.
World Press Freedom Day is a time for us all to reflect on what we can do to safeguard journalists and to recognize our collective obligations to take practical steps to address those forces that menace the media.
The United Nations is actively engaged in supporting free media in Afghanistan. Our human rights colleagues track crimes against media that are related to the armed conflict, and UNESCO, as the lead United Nations agency working on protecting journalist and battling impunity, is collaborating with Afghan partners on a credible database registering crimes against reporters, as well as pushing for more measures to bring perpetrators to justice.
The United Nations has a commitment to defend Afghanistan’s free press, and we will do all in our power to support free media so all journalists — Afghan media and foreign correspondents alike — can operate without fear of being harassed, intimidated or attacked, and so the media can operate safely in an environment where crimes against them will be addressed swiftly and effectively.
On World Press Freedom Day, the United Nations stands in solidarity with journalists. We will continue to support the Afghan government in its efforts to implement measures that improve journalist safety and that foster an open media where no voice is silenced through fear.
Tadamichi Yamamoto is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).