News from the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)
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The Killid Group, October 10, 2016

Press under attack

Freedom of the press is under threat, and the government of national unity has done little to protect journalists

Ahead of the second round of presidential polls in 2014, the two candidates – now president and chief executive – had signed an agreement to strengthen media rights and respect liberty of the press.

In reality the media has to struggle for access to information and security, and if you are female against sexual harassment, says the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), which represents Afghan journalists. The NUJ conducted a survey, interviewing 1,088 journalists in 11 provinces who worked in the print and electronic media and websites.

Faheem Dashti, the union’s head, believes violence against the media has increased. “Journalists are beaten, and terrorised by the government,” he says. Half of those surveyed confirmed violence was on the rise. There were 60 incidents in the first six months of this year. Last year, there were only 39.

Women were harassed both within the office and outside. “Female journalists are faced with security and financial problems, and also sexual harassment,” NUJ’s Dashti confirms. “Unfortunately the government has not done anything.”

Journalist Husain Naseri, a freelancer, says the government has neither provided security nor investigated the dossiers of violence against the media. “The government always makes promises but never acts.”

Hezbullah Atal, a reporter with Kabul News, echoes the same feelings. “They (leaders of the national unity government) approved the law of access to information at the beginning … but unfortunately many of the government offices do not share information with the press, particularly when it is not in their interest. The other problem is that they release incorrect information that creates many problems.”

Hekmatullah Nori, reporter for Aryana News, wants the government to immediately implement the law of access to information. According to Wahidullah Oryakhil, reporter for Gurbat TV, the public blames the media when information is wrong.

Kareebul Rahman Shahab, a reporter with the daily Sarnawesht (destiny), blames journalists at the top for weakening the media. He says many of those in top jobs are poor at their work and give the media a bad name. In addition, cases of violence, torture and murder against journalists have increased this year. He blames it on the government. “The government is committed to democracy; it should not create problems for journalists.”

It is getting tougher and tougher to be a journalist, says Kabul Press Club chief Aziz Ahmad Tasal. Apart from anti-government groups, the government is a threat to the media. “Journalists were beaten up during a trip of the Afghan president to Bamyan,” Tasal says.

Government view

Minister for Culture and Information Abdul Bari Jahani thinks the bill on immunity for journalists will speed up investigations into dossiers of violence against journalists. “The National Security Council, Ministry of Culture and Information and some other security institutions have drafted the law for the setting up of a committee in Kabul that would also have control over the provinces,” says Jahani.

Meanwhile, a committee led by Sarwar Danesh, second deputy minister, is reviewing some 625 cases of violence against journalists over the last 14 years. With amendments in media laws, press freedom will be better protected, he says.

Dashtee adds that the goal of the survey is to make aware the government about its weak and strong points solve the problems so that it becomes strong. Dashtee sees the economic problem a big problem of the journalists as he founds from the survey but says that misbehavior with the journalists and not reviewing their dossiers are also serious problems,

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