PAN, May 1, 2008

Press freedom in Afghanistan getting worse: CPJ

Afghanistan has been ranked seventh in the list of 13 countries which is led by Iraq and followed by Sierra Leone and Somalia.

Lalit K Jha

UNITED NATIONS: The freedom of press, which initially improved in the first few years of the post-Taliban era, is now getting worse the head of the Committee to Protect Journalists have said.

It improved, and now it is getting worse," CPJ Executive Director, Joel Simon, told Pajhwok Afghan News in an interview after releasing its first every Impunity Index.

Afghanistan has been ranked seventh in the list of 13 countries which is led by Iraq and followed by Sierra Leone and Somalia. Interestingly six of these countries are from South Asia. This includes Sri Lanka (fifth), Nepal (eighth), Bangladesh (11th), Pakistan (12th) and India (13th).

Fazel Rahman Oria, the editor of the Erada daily in Kabul, was forced into hiding after his newspaper published a five-part analysis that contained a reference to Ahmad Shah Massoud, the mujahedin leader widely hailed as an Afghan national hero. After the author, Azam Sistani, called Massoud a "warlord", armed men arrived at the paper's office to take Oria away.
IWPR, Dec.20, 2007

Journalists in Afghanistan, Simon said operate under extreme tough conditions. The regional warlords set the limits of free expression, he said. "It is more open in Kabul, but even in Kabul there are journalists who are under lot of pressure from religious groups and also there is a limited economic means," he said.

It definitely improved, but most of the improvement happened several years ago. Now it is getting worse," he observed.

The Afghan Government needs to understand that the murder of journalists needs to be investigated, but they also need to create an environment in which journalists can work and can stand up to the militant groups who threaten the press," he said.

Expressing concern over the ban imposed by the Afghanistan on Indian soap operas, Simon appreciated the stand taken by the popular Tolo TV in this regard, which has decided to defy the ban.

The Afghanistan portion of the report said: "Despite the prolonged armed conflict in Afghanistan, journalists are more likely to be targeted for murder than to be killed in a combat situation."

Seven cases are unsolved, including the 2007 slaying of local reporter Ajmal Naqshbandi. Running counter to the international trend, most victims have been foreign rather than local reporters, it said

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