Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

Afghanistan: On the Verge of Downfall of Media Freedom

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Afghanistan: On the Verge of Downfall of  Media Freedom

Given the recent methodic reports, it seems that Afghanistan is on the verge of downfall of media freedom due to various reasons such as journalist serial killings, gender discrimination and low wages. In general, a new climate of fears and  worries are overtly felt amongst media community in the country. The media supporting organizations have frequently expressed their concerns and anxieties about intensification of intentional violence and threats into lives of media workers. NAI, an Organization Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan, just released a report disclosing that over 1,000 female Afghan journalists have left jobs in the industry for various reasons since 2014. According to NAI, the number of female journalists has now dropped from 2,500 to 1,500 saying targeted killings, gender discrimination and low wages are among the key factors that have led to the reduction in the number of female journalists in the country. The successive concerns about security of journalists has not only caused the reduction of female journalist in the country, but also caused many journalist students to change their career pathway from journalists to other fields as daily news indicates .
In addition to NAI research report, there are other daily evidences and methodic reports showing the downfall of media freedom in the country. Recently, the Reporters  of Without Borders released a report that Afghanistan dropped from 121st to 122nd place in its newly-released 2020 Press Freedom Index, calling Afghanistan Pakistan, Philippines and Bangladesh the «world s deadliest countries for journalists and bloggers However, considering the recent serial killings, it seems that Afghanistan farther dropped from its global position because many of Afghan journalists left their jobs or continued their work under extremely difficult circumstances and routinely face violence, threats, and intimidation that prevent them from carrying out their work freely. Actually, the rise of violence against journalists has turned the country into the most dangerous country for journalists in the world .
According to experts, the awareness role of journalist and intellectuals in the eve of new chapter in Afghanistan or in the eve of new progress of peace process is the main factor behind violence against journalists.  It is not important for the enemies of democracy and transparency that what group, the media worker belong to as long as they play awakening role in the country. They understand the power of freedom of expression and public awareness while they have no plan for governance in the country. Therefore, the freedom of expression is barrier against their political domination in the country while having no attractive programs. So, they need to target the brave activist journalist and impendent scholars in the country but the republican supporters must note that democracy is equivalent to tyranny if we lose the freedom of media or freedom of expression in the country and so, we need to call for practical measures for protections of media in the country. The government should do its utmost to bring perpetrators of threats, attacks and killing of journalists to justice. The international community is also expected to show a serious reaction to increase of violence against journalists putting pressure on terrorists to stop targeting journalists and intellectuals. Targeting media staff is a war crime. The media staffs are expected to be more united continuing their responsibility with full impartiality .
The people of Afghanistan seriously expect all parts of peace talks not to undermine the past achievements and not confine the freedom of expression in Afghanistan. In fact , freedom of expression is freedom of thoughts, creativities, reforms and transparency. If any groups are in the favor of these values, they should prove that they are not the enemy of media workers or journalists anymore. Taliban should note that the new generation of Afghanistan do not want to go back to the era when there was only one radio station called Vice of Sharia just broadcasting the voice of only ruling group in the country .
Now, there are hundreds of media in the country. They important role in good governance, transparency and production of news thoughts and ideas in the country. According to Afghan Constitution Article 34 , “Freedom of expression shall be inviolable. Every Afghan shall have the right to express thoughts through speech, writing, illustrations as well as other means in accordance with provisions of this constitution. Every Afghan shall have the right, according to provisions of law, to print and publish on subjects without prior submission of state authorities. Indeed, these achievements are the biggest gains of Afghanistan in the history and so must be protected .
By and large, the rise of violence journalists will not only impose a quantitative impact on the number journalists in Afghanistan, but also qualitative impact on journalist s work in the country. Hereafter, the Afghan journalists would increasingly resort to self-censorship due to fear that their reporting could be punished by the violence of armed and unarmed groups. Therefore, if we believe in democracy and democratic values, it is high time to take serious measures for protection of media journalists in the country noting that media considered as the fourth pillar of a government; According to international conventions to which Afghanistan is a signatory and according to Article 50 of the Afghan Constitution , “Right to know or Right of Access to Information is a fundamental human right for every Afghan citizen. So, it is expected that human right orgs and local citizens strongly support media and journalist to monitor social, political or administrative issues or else we should anticipate the Downfall of Media Freedom in Afghanistan .

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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