The Jakarta Post, November 25, 2006

Asian journalists work to make war reporting less of a battle

By Ary Hermawan

With a free media a mere dream in a large part of Asia, local journalists lead lives fraught with struggle and danger as they work to bring the injustices of their countries to the wider world.

AWA representative delivers a lecture RAWA representative delivers a lecture on "Media for peace and the challenge of Islamic extremism: Learning from RAWA experience" in the 3rd Assembly of the Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN) in Jakarta.

Journalists and rights activists from several Asian nations shared their experiences in workshop on "peace journalism", held as part of the Asian Muslim Action Network's third assembly in Jakarta, from Nov. 15 to 18.

Mariam Rawi of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) said that in Afghanistan, journalists worked under constant threat and pressure from both the authorities and religious extremists. Nobody seems to have the courage to cover and report the abuses of human rights that occur there, she says.

"It is very important to have the courage to cover and to tell the reality of Afghanistan. If the media is not playing its role in a honest way, it would be very difficult for the people to know what is really going on," she said.

Over the last 30 war-ridden years in Afghanistan, journalists have never been free to provide full coverage of the situation, particularly when trying to depict crimes perpetrated by government officials or fundamentalist groups.

"We have a long list of journalists working for foreign media who have been killed," she said, adding that most local media professionals chose not to report on sensitive issues to avoid intimidation.


Mariam said she believed the media was capable of working as an instrument of peace, with its ability to educate and advocate for people. She said that this meant journalists needed to be protected and given the freedom to report on whatever they chose.

"If they are free to express whatever they see is true, we can advise and tell them of what roles they can play," she said.

With RAWA, Mariam has traveled inside Afghanistan to collect reports on women's rights abuses.



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