Afghan Humanitarian Reporting and Journalists' Training Programme
Full and un-edited transcript of all 70 hours of the Loya Jirga proceedings.
The overall objective of IWPR’s programme in Afghanistan is to contribute to democracy and peace through a sustained improvement in the level of public debate and information exchange.
This is done by developing professional reporting skills and improving the capacity of local and regional media to function as independent entities; the tools used include institution building, practical training and information production and dissemination.
IWPR began work in Afghanistan shortly before the fall of the Taleban in 2001, and since then has expanded its programme activities throughout the country.
Recent programmes include the Afghan Investigative Journalism Fund, in which IWPR staff used hands-on practical training to help journalists produce a substantial body of radio and text stories on issues raising from corruption to medical malpractice and gun crime. To sustain this effort, IWPR established the Afghan Centre for Investigative Journalism as a locally-owned media organisation.
In 2012, we took these efforts a step further with a project to build investigative reporting capacity in Uruzgan and Nangarhar provinces, in which teams of reporters are being trained to generate original stories that raise awareness and encourage action by communities, civil society groups and local government.
The highlight of 2011 was the production of a groundbreaking new film. Called “Forgotten Victims”, the documentary covers the war crimes and other abuses committed over two decades of conflict to 2001. The film was shown at special screenings around the country, and on local and national TV. Many Afghans who saw it praised its courage in tackling what is still a live and sensitive issue, and expressed hope it could bring them a step closer to justice and closure.
Under the same project, Afghan Witness, 20 radio documentaries were produced on human rights themes and broadcast on local radio across. On numerous occasions, listeners called in to ask for the programmes to be repeated. There were also radio versions of 14 long-form stories produced for print under the investigative journalism project.
In other project work, IWPR has established media centres in Helmand, Herat, Nangarhar, Parwan and Balkh provinces, to bolster independent journalism through training, debate and provision of technical facilities like internet access. Most recently IWPR established the House of Reporters in Balkh province. This centre is currently housed in IWPR’s Media Centre in Mazar-e Sharif. IWPR is also establishing a bureau/hub in Tarin Kowt, the administrative centre of Uruzgan province.
IWPR is working in partnership with the University of Arizona to establish a journalism department at Nangarhar University in southeast Afghanistan.
Past achievements include the creation of Pajhwok Afghan News, the first independent news agency in the country; a pioneering training and reporting project in Helmand province; and a special reporting project on the 2002 Loya Jirga. (Public Record of Afghanistan's Loya Jirga)
The ultimate purpose of these activities is to strengthen Afghan media as a central pillar of independent civil society, and to increase local understanding of – and participation in – the political process. The programme is helping a new generation of Afghan journalists fulfil this crucial role, through professional training of individuals and institutions, debate and discussion, local and international publishing, and active engagement with other media and development organisations.
IWPR teams of international trainers provide training that is intensive, practical, and relevant.
The content of training is tailored to the region concerned. In Helmand and Uruzgan, for example, where journalists had little prior training, the focus was on the basics of journalism. In Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif, Nangarhar, and Herat, which have been the focus of sustained training efforts, more advanced workshops are held, focusing on investigative journalism, economic reporting and analytical writing.
A central feature of IWPR’s training is reporting and publication. IWPR editor/trainers commission stories from trainees, taking them through each stage in the reporting and editing process.
Stories written by trainee journalists are published in the Afghan Recovery Report, which appears each week on IWPR's website in English, Dari and Pashto and is also distributed by email. ARR is provided free of charge to all local media for republication, which means objective information on the most important issues facing the country can reach the widest possible readership. Having an international platform means local opinions on the difficult processes under way in Afghanistan have a greater chance of reaching and influencing international decision-makers.
Supporting the Media
Offices around Afghanistan serve as meeting places and resource centres for the local media.
Journalists can come to the media centres to use equipment, to consult with trainers, to ask advice from colleagues, or just to meet and talk.
IWPR is keen to encourage the formation of sustainable long-term networks between journalists, media and NGOs. Occasional discussions provide a forum for these civil society actors to meet, while reporting projects encourage mutual trust and help secure relationships.
IWPR has formed close relationships with media in its areas of operation. In Helmand, IWPR worked with Sabawoon Radio as well as the state-run Helmand radio and television. IWPR also ran workshops for journalists from the state Helmand newspaper, as well as for the independent Bost publication.
IWPR's startup programme began with help from the MacArthur Foundation. Since then, it has been supported by US donors - the Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; the US Embassy in Kabul, USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Open Society Institute, and the Ford Foundation; and in Europe, by the British government's Global Conflict Prevention Pool and DFID, the European Union, the Norwegian government and the Swedish International Development Agency.