Afghan Youth Debates: Media Key to Elections

Media networks in Afghanistan are crucial to helping raise public awareness of the role of government, experts in the southeastern Khost region say.

Mohammad Khan Niazi, a senior lecturer in journalism, said newspapers, television and radio outlets all played a vital part in informing the public and stimulating debate.

Addressing nearly 100 students at Sheikh Zayed University in Khost, on the country's eastern border with Pakistan, Niazi said journalists were largely doing an excellent job in the build-up to the presidential election on April 5.

"The media can inform a large number of people very rapidly," Niazi told the IWPR-backed event on December 9. "It can educate the public about government processes and is an important tool for increasing people's knowledge."

But some audience members disputed this, accusing media outlets of failing to provide balanced analysis, and in some instances, of demanding payment for the broadcast or publication of election-related stories.

Sahebuddin Zadran, head of the public awareness section of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) in Khost, said he was certain that efforts to collaborate with the media were paying dividends.

"We have launched various public awareness programmes for media outlets in the last few months, and they have had a positive impact," he said.

But Mohammad Elyas Wahdat, a local journalist, claimed questions still remained about the independence and integrity of some media organisations.

He urged the IEC to take appropriate action when news reports were found to be deliberately biased in favour of particular election candidates. Journalists should work in the spirit of the national interest, he added.

Mohammad Adel is a student at Sheikh Zayed 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.