Speech by Said Yaqub Ibrahimi, journalist of IWPR, at 3rd Global Inter-Media Dialogue in Bali, Indonesia
Said Yaqub Ibrahimi was awarded the International Award of Freedom of Speech in April 2008 in Italy.
Thanks for giving me the chance to speak. My special thanks to those who hold such conferences to discuss the freedom of speech.
I think it is the best way to tell the pro-democracy and freedom of speech elements through such international forums that working as a journalist is getting difficult not only in fundamentalist regimes but also in most developed countries. But problems against the freedom of speech are in different categories in different countries like the different political, social and religious situation in different areas.
Many colleagues and friends talked in general. The international organizations defending the rights of journalists, too, have different figures regarding the freedom of speech across the world. Therefore, there is no space to talk about general issues.
I would like to talk a few words regarding the freedom of speech in Afghanistan, where I work as a journalist and feel all of the difficulties working as a journalist, over the past one year.
Although, the international media organizations have published detailed reports on the condition of freedom of speech and press in Afghanistan, but the real situation is something different from these reports. Because some of these organizations are either very conservative or are linked to the fundamentalist figures inside the government in order to keep their jobs safe. Therefore, we cannot trust the honesty in their works and reports.
I am a journalist working for the freedom of speech and democracy in very difficult situation in Afghanistan like my other colleagues. So, I guess I can feel the real situation of the freedom of speech in my country more than these organizations.
Therefore, I would like to say very openly that the situation for the media in Afghanistan is getting worse and worse, and if this situation is not controlled, it will turn Afghanistan into a major abattoir of journalists and a graveyard for the media. Despite the three or four years ago, in which the media had changed Afghanistan. Today and in particular since early 2007, it has been very bad for the media in which everything has been moving backwards.
Because since 2007, every writing in my country can be anti-Islamic, anti-government and against the national interest. The enemies of freedom of speech consider anything against their willing and their interest as anti-Islamic, anti-government and anti-national interests. There is no obstacle on their way for doing this.
They kill journalists, put them in jail and sentence them to death through this way or even they threaten journalists to death to quit their profession or leave their country. I have many examples for that and I am sure that many of the world journalists also have information in this regard and are aware of it
Mr Kambaksh (brother of Yaqub Ibrahimi) was arrested for distributing a pamphlet about women's rights.
IWPR, Dec.9, 2007: Journalist Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi says his brother Parwez has been jailed and threatened with death because of his own reporting on human rights violations in the north. [He] says his brother has been imprisoned on false charges as a way of pressuring him not to write articles critical of local officials and strongmen.
The question is who these enemies are?
1. Fundamentalist warlords in the north part of country, who consider the freedom of speech as the only source for revealing their crimes. They are in the threshold of dominating the situation. They have found their way into the Afghan parliament and through the parliament; they have remarkable influence on the Afghanistan government. They own the laws and with their local and military power, they use the laws against the freedom of speech and against the journalists.
2. The extremist Taliban group in the south and west of the country which does not need to talk about because everybody knows about this group. They do not believe in any values of freedom of speech. Beheading journalists and writers are considered as their regular hobbies. Tackling the freedom of speech and press is part of their policy.
3. Taliban-style Mullahs in the capital and some parts of the country. They have established religious councils and they misuse the religion to put pressure on the freedom of speech and press. They control most of the country’s judicial system and through that, they can bring the journalists and the media to the court very easily and sentence them to death. They put them in jail or make them apologize.
4. And finally, it is Karzai's administration which has paved all of these ways for putting pressure and tackling the freedom of speech in my country. So it is changing to a system of anti-freedom of speech and press gradually.
Therefore, a lot of pressure on the media over the past year has caused many of the independent journalists and media of Afghanistan to ignore the journalism ethics and its international standards and do self-censorship. And those who dare to respect all of the ethics and standards of the journalism are either become the victim or are made leave their country.
I have many friends who have put his and his family’s lives in danger for publishing articles which are not liked by the fundamentalists and warlords. This threat and danger can be death, abduction or assassination.
I also have friends who do their works and write articles based on the suggestion of the fundamentalists. I also have friends who have quit their profession from the fear of the Mullahs and some governmental officials. The media which are to close down and the journalists who are to go to jails soon are the major examples for the situation of the freedom of speech in my country.
Everybody has information and figure for the number of journalists killed and jailed over the past year in Afghanistan.
This is the image of the freedom of speech and journalism in Afghanistan which does not suit to this country.
But the most worrying and concerning point is that the image is getting darker and darker everyday in my country.
Despite this, the thing which should be focused on a lot is that the current situation for the media in Afghanistan is controllable because the situation for the media in Afghanistan is not as bad as in China, Iran and many other countries. But if we miss the chance, the things cannot be controlled for many other years. The current threats and danger, can take this country to the worst point for journalists and media. I think the memory from the Taliban regime is an unforgettable memory from Afghanistan for all of the international community.
The weak regime of Karzai is currently unable to control the bad situation for the media in Afghanistan because the fundamentalists, who are the enemy of the freedom of press and speech, control most of the regime.
So the only way to control the situation is that the international forces, present in Afghanistan, who spend about one hundred million dollars a day , should stop watching this bad scenario and take action themselves. They should support the media as the 2003 and 2004 and should directly support journalists facing danger.
They should put pressure on Karzai's administration to stop its consultative policy with the fundamentalists and should treat them according to the law. Or else, Afghanistan will be the worst country for media and journalists in the world.