Afghanistan » Society

A Glance at Media Condition in Afghanistan

Published Date: May 5, 2018

 

By Zia ul Islam Shirani / CSRS

Last week (30 April, 2018), besides other people, 9 journalists became killed and 5 other wounded in the two consecutive attacks in Kabul City. A BBC Reporter shot dead in Khost province the same day, and a Kabul News TV Journalists was murdered by unknown gunmen in Kandahar last week as well.      

The Afghan media receives the strike while, besides the upturn in its quantity, the independence of Afghan media has also been remarkably increased in last 17 years. According to Reporters Without Borders, Afghanistan ranks 118 out of 180 countries worldwide; however, this country has been called deadly for journalist and at least 15 journalists and media workers were killed in last year of 2017. [1]  

The Afghan government has always considered the proliferation of independent media and freedom of speech as one of among its greatest achievements; however, the security and personal safety of journalists and media workers has not been taken care as well as its needed. 

You will read about background, achievements, and problems, barriers and challenges toward media here.  

 

Background

The media history goes back to 145 years since the second Sultanate of Amir Shir Ali Khan in 1873. At that era, the first newspapers called Shams-u Nahar became established which was being printed by lithography machine in Shams-u Nahar printing press. 

After Shams-u Nahar, Siraju-ul Akhbar Afghanistan in 1906 and Siraj-ul Akhbar Afghania in 1912 were important steps in Afghan news writing and media sector which enlightened and paved the way for journalism. But, during Amanullah Khan’s Sultanate which is called the era of journalism as well, the media also became improved well as every other sector and there were 23 different magazines and newspapers became published at that time. [2]   

For the first time, during the Sultanate of Amanullah Khan, an independent and private newspaper called “Anis” started to operate by Muhiddin Anis. Generally, this era was full of enlightenment and development of Afghan media. After that, till the Sultanate of Mohammad Zahir Shah, however, the media had not got freedom and it censored and controlled by government.    

During the Sultanate of Zahir Shah, however, the media freedom became announced, but it was under governmental censor during Daoud Khan and then the Khalq and Parcham Dominion. Moreover, some parties started to have independent publications in the last years of the Najeeb Administration. [3]      

The media was completely under the control of government in the Taliban regime and the operation of State TV was also stalled. After 2001, when the Taliban regime became collapsed as a result of America and NATO attacks and the new system backed by them came to ground, the activities of free media became permitted and now, there are hundreds of different media operating in the country.

 

Afghan Media after 2001

Media, as it is called fourth power in a country, has got special and effective role in every field. Media can work both as bullet or balm in most important and fateful issues in a country.

Last 17 years are considered as an extraordinary period for the freedom of speech and independent media that hundreds of different audio, video, print and online media that broadcast alongside the governmental media; however, these media are also criticized for different reasons as well.        

According to the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, there are 203 TV channels, 366 Radio channels, 72 Newspapers, 354 Weekly Newspapers, 344 Magazines and 73 News Agencies are registered with this ministry. These media have had a lot of role in providing news, public awareness, monitoring the governmental affairs, analyzing and evaluating the country situation, providing entertainments programs and etc. till now that is considered as an important achievement for democracy in Afghanistan.      

On the hand, the media, however, has developed when it comes to quantity, but it still has a lot of problems when it comes to quality, professionalism and impartiality. If we examine the media and its real freedom in current situation, we will conclude that the media has not performed its honest responsibility and mission well; neither it took care of media ethics not respected the religious and cultural boundaries.   

 

Barriers toward Media

Security Threats; a big challenge toward media workers and journalists in Afghanistan is lack of their safety. Journalists, who often go to the areas of severe and conflicting situations, in order to illustrate the facts of the incidents, often, pay the price by their death.

According to the 1396 report of Nai-Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan, the violence against journalists became increased by 51% in 1396 in compare to 1395. This organization has registered 166 cases of violence against women which include 19 cases of murder, 41 cases of wounded, 23 cases of beating, 16 cases of imprisonment and 67 cases of threatening. [4]   

Lack of Access to Information; according to the Article 50 of the Afghan Constitution and Article 5 of the Afghan Mass Media Law, access to information is the right of every Afghan; however, this article of the Constitution is, unfortunately, suppressed by the government itself, the anti-government elements (AGEs) and strongmen which have created a big barriers for the media in order to reach the truths.     

Lack of Impartiality; another big barrier is dependence of media on different parties in Afghanistan. Nowadays, most of the media is dependent either on a political party, person or movement inside the country or on a country, person or someone’s commercial and financial goals outside the country. Also, the increased number of media in last 17 years shows that a lot of media backed by different countries, parties and persons for different reasons came to ground and started to operate. Therefore, most of them cannot stay stuck to its main mission as a media and so, they cannot be called by impartial.    

Vulgar Programs; another barrier toward Afghan media that has prevented it from its main mission is broadcasting of vulgar programs that are considered against the Islamic Sharia and Afghan Culture and Tradition; however, the media, as a result of financial support of foreign parties or its own financial benefits, is obligated to do so. These programs have had a great role in promotion and effectiveness of alien and importing culture.      

 

Why Media and its Employees are Targeted?

The latest attacks on journalists in Kabul, Kandahar and Khost became strongly condemned by Presidential Office, Chief Executive’s Office, Wolesi Jirga, Media Organization and several other political parties and personalities inside the country and by Amnesty International, NATO and UN outside the country and called them as War Crimes. Overall, journalists and media workers are targets of the on-going insecurity in the country; however, the questions is what are the reasons behind direct targeting of media workers and media activists?     

First; the government, however, has always considered the freedom of speech and media as one of its biggest achievement, but has not fulfilled its legal responsibility and obligation well when it comes to safety of media workers and has failed in this field.  

Second; as media plays important role in public awareness and information promotion, so it is targeted by armed opposition, strongmen, Mafia and spy circles for sharing information with people about their actions and activities.   

Third; free media should take care of impartiality in its news and other programs. But, unfortunately, a lot of media do not take care of this principle in Afghanistan; most of the time they take a side and broadcast news based on second-hand or baseless information and this reason also has had a lot of role in increase of violence and threats against them.  

The End

 

[1] RSF, Reporters Without Borders, see online: https://rsf.org/en/ranking

[2] محمد کاظم اهنګ او حبیب الله رفیع: “په افغانستان کې د ژونالیزم بهر” مومند خپرندویه ټولنه.

[3] دانش کړوخیل: “مسلکي خبریالي” پژواک خبرې آژانس، ۱۳۹۳هـ ش، ص ۲۵۵.

[4] See online: https://pa.azadiradio.com/a/29138220.html

 

 

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