Abdul Latif Sahak
I was born on April 4, 1978 in Dehdadi district of Balkh province into a middle- class family. My father sent me to the local high school, Shahid Balkhi, in 2005 despite his own financial problems because he was keen that other members of his family should be given chances he never had. I had left school in 1996 with average grades. As the eldest son, I felt the need to support the family and opened a TV and radio workshop because I had learned about electronics at school. However, this slowed my education. Still, I am proud that I was able to provide for the family’s welfare and education, as well as my own studies. As a result of my efforts, all my nine siblings have gone through higher education in medicine, engineering and law. It is a source of great pride for me that I made this possible. After taking the university test, I joined the literature faculty and since I already had an interest in journalism, I was enrolled in the journalism department. After the Taleban took over the north of Afghanistan, my studies were interrupted for two years but I resumed them and obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2003. After graduation, I took the Afghan government’s administration test and obtained the highest score, which led to a job as a reporter and producer in the government-owned radio and TV station in Balkh. I quit after a while because heavy self-censorship was required and reporters could not do anything without permission of government officials. I joined the privately-owned TV channel Shamshad as a reporter in the north of Afghanistan in 2005. Being a journalist allows me to explain the realities of Afghanistan to my readers. It has also meant that occasionally I have been threatened by powerful people and local officials but I did not surrender to these threats. Later on, I worked with Pajhwok news agency in the feature reports section for a short time. I joined Wakht news agency in 2007 and am still there. Besides working with these media outlets, I have also received training in investigative journalism from Pajhwok and taken part in several seminars and training courses with IWPR which have helped me write better investigative and feature reports. In my work with IWPR since 2008, I have had about 20 reports published. I am proud of all my reports but I am especially pleased with one about drugs in Balkh Province which was published in February 2009 when there was only one addicts' hospital for nine provinces in the north. However, soon after the report was published on different local and foreign websites, the international community and the ministry of public health paid special attention to the issue by establishing such hospitals in Kunduz, Faryab and Badakhshan provinces. The report even attracted the private sector to the north. A privately-owned treatment hospital for women addicts is active here at the moment, which may have solved the problems to some extent. While I have reported for several media outlets, my work for IWPR has led me to be widely recognised in as a leading reporter in Balkh. In the chaotic situation in Afghanistan, it is not easy to be a journalist because those who oppose democracy and freedom of speech are powerful forces that pose a threat to anyone who tries to expose them. But any journalist has to be ready to carry that burden and to realise that fighting this kind of chaos is the responsibility of any journalist worthy of the name.