Afghan Youth Debates: Media Central to Fair Elections

Millions of Afghans are missing out on radio and television because of severe electricity shortages across the country, a debate has heard.

The claims were made at an IWPR event held on December 15 for an audience of students at Balkh University in Mazar-e Sharif, in the north of Afghanistan.

Najib Paikan, the owner of a private radio station based in Balkh province, claimed that inadequate power infrastructure was preventing dozens of broadcast networks from keeping the public fully informed about the April presidential election.

Another speaker at the event, journalism lecturer Sayed Mustafa Habibi, said that despite these problems, the media remained an essential mechanism for holding government to account. But he warned students that not all media outlets were neutral, and more needed to be done to combat bias in the press, radio and television.

Kazem Haidari, a journalist who sat on the panel at the debate, agreed that it was crucial for the media to be seen to be non-partisan. Good journalism meant avoiding reporting rumours and speculation and concentrating on the facts, he said.

“A media outlet will lose all credibility if it's seen to be favouring a specific candidate,” he said. 

Sakhi Dad Mahdiyar is a student at Balkh University and an IWPR trainee.

This report was produced as part of Open Minds: Speaking Up, Reaching Out – Promoting University and Youth Participation in Afghan Elections, an IWPR initiative funded by the US embassy in Kabul.