Monday, September 9, 2013

Afghanistan: 62 acts of violence against journalists

The Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) has registered 62 cases of violence against freedom of the media and journalists over the past eight months across Afghanistan. This raises serious concerns about the safety of journalists and the state of press freedom as the country prepares for 2014 presidential and provincial council elections and the withdrawal of international troops.

AFJC registered these cases from January to August 2013; the incidents include murders, injuries, physical and verbal abuse, death threats and the closure of media outlets. Government officials and security forces, the Taliban and illegal armed groups are among the perpetrators of these violent attacks.

Over the course of this period, there were two cases of murder, four injuries, the detention of a journalist and the sentencing of another one, the closure of two radio stations, the dismissal of a reporter for merely liking a Facebook post, along with 51 cases of threats, insults and beatings.

AFJC's findings show that violence against reporters is on the increase amid fears that illegal armed groups would resort to further violence in future.

Along with the shrinking number of media outlets, the media are falling into the hands of powerful provincial leaders and foreign interests. The organisation takes special note of the problem facing women journalists in Afghanistan, many of whom are leaving the profession because of threats to their families.

In accordance with the Afghanistan Media law, every person has the right to freedom of thought and speech, which includes the right to seek, obtain and disseminate information and views within the limit of law without any interference, restriction or threat by the government or officials. This right also includes the ability to freely engage in the publication, distribution, and reception of information.

The law also stipulates that the government should work to support, strengthen, and guarantee freedom of the mass media. Except as authorized under this law, no real or legal entity, including the government and government offices, may ban, prohibit, censor or limit the informational activities of the mass media or otherwise interfere in their affairs.

The AFJC is concerned about what will happen post-2014 and the government's continued negligence to protect freedom of speech, which has encouraged illegal armed groups to threaten journalists.

As security is deteriorating, the government increasingly denies journalists access to information, mostly in the provinces.

Meanwhile, most media outlets in Afghanistan have been reliant on foreign aid, and will likely be facing financial challenges after 2014 when there will be a shortage of international assistance.

The AFJC is deeply concerned about the situation of media outlets, their future and the challenges and threats facing them. The organisation calls on the Afghan government to step up efforts to strengthen media organisations, and protect freedom of speech as well as sustain free media in the country.

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