Unprecedented challenges grip Afghan media

KABUL (Pajhwok): The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) in collaboration UN agencies, Nai and United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) celebrated the World Press Freedom Day in Kabul and highlighted challenges faced by the media.

AJSC, UNAMA, Nai and UNESCO raised their concern over the press freedom situation in Afghanistan on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. High-ranking government officials, journalists, civil society activists, diplomatic missions based in Kabul, and UN Special Representative of the Secretary General and UNESCO were in attendance.

All keynote speakers highlighted the challenges to press freedom, journalists’ safety as well as the measures needed to overcome them. The event was in-person and virtual ensuring wider reach including participation of the diplomatic missions in Kabul. The day was celebrated at a time where a set of unprecedented challenges have gripped the media sector and the journalistic community in Afghanistan. Of particular note was the targeted killing of journalists, the perpetual barriers to access to information, and the overwhelming on-going financial challenges that Afghanistan’s media face.

Concerns about losing press freedom during peace talks has also been a major subject of debate among media workers and proponents of press freedom in Afghanistan, and was also raised during the WPFD event. It was noted that these challenges had created existential threats to press freedom in Afghanistan, which has been one of the most notable achievements of the country in the past two decades.

“We are extremely concerned about the state of affairs, particularly the targeted killing of journalists and growing financial challenges of the media”, said NajibSharifi President of Afghan Journalist Safety Committee (AJSC). “If we do not take concrete and meaningful measures to address these challenges, we could lose one of the greatest achievements of the past two decades”, added Sharifi. Deborah Lyons, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan remarked, “when any Afghan reporter is gagged or hurt, the media sector is wounded and Afghanistan itself is seriously damaged” and called for violence to abate and the impunity gap to be closed.

In the event, government officials including second Vice President Sarwar Danish, reported the government’s measures and achievements with regards to protection of journalists and press freedom and the activities of the Joint Committee for the Protection of Journalists and Media. The Deputy Minister of the State Ministry for Peace also explained the measures they are undertaking to preserve press freedom during the peace talks.

The event also featured the grievances and hopes of the family members of those journalists and media workers who were recently killed in target killings. They expressed their concerns and dissatisfaction about the lack of effective and comprehensive investigation of the killing of their loved ones.