Afghan Youth Debates: Media Lack Money for Election Reporting
Media networks across Afghanistan lack the funding they need to cover the April elections effectively, an IWPR debate in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif has heard.
Shafi Rahimi, the Balkh provincial director of an NGO called Mediothek Afghanistan, argued that few media organisations had the money to dispatch reporters to polling stations outside major cities. This made it inevitable that no one would be reporting on large numbers of remote voting centres on election day, April 5.
"Kabul-based media outlets are well placed to observe the activities of the Independent Election Commission and the Independent Election Complaints Commission, but this is really difficult for provincial media outlets as access is so much more restricted," Rahimi said. "Most media outlets will be able to observe up to three polling stations in more remote provinces. I experienced this as a reporter in previous elections.”
Without effective domestic observers and a capable, professional media, the transparency of the election process was at risk, he argued.
Afghanistan will go to the polls on April 5 to vote for provincial councillors as well as a successor to President Hamed Karzai, who is standing down after completing the two terms he was allowed under the constitution.
Western governments have pledged around a third less in cash to the United Nations fund covering election costs compared with the amount they gave for the last presidential poll in 2009.
The European Union's contribution is understood to have fallen by more than 70 per cent to 13 million US dollars, while the United States is thought to be committing 55 million dollars, some 15 per cent less than five years ago.
The IWPR discussion event was held on January 23, and attended by more than 60 university students, civil activists and journalists from Balkh province.
The panellists, who included Professor Nurullah Mohseni, dean of law and politics at Balkh University, stressed the importance of having election observers and said any reports of efforts to fix the outcome must be taken seriously.
Mohseni also warned that lack of clarity about the powers of domestic observers to report fraud could cloud efforts to ensure a free and fair vote.
Yadullah Mohammadi, a student at Balkh University, pointed out that in past polls, election observers had themselves been accused of corruption, and asked what measures were in place to ensure they were impartial.
Mohammad Arif Anwari is a journalism 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.