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Afghan Broadcasters Warned Against Graphic Footage

Speakers at IWPR debates ask for more sensitive reporting of stories involving violence.

The Afghan media need to act more responsibly when covering the country’s ongoing conflict, according to speakers at IWPR-organised debates in Bamyan, Kunduz and Ghor provinces.

Speakers at the events talked about how broadcasting graphic images could be disturbing for viewers, especially young people, and called for greater awareness of media ethics.

In Bamyan, one debate participant asked how the media could improve coverage of sensitive issues such as sexual violence and murder.

Mohammad Amin Joya, deputy chancellor of Bamyan University, said journalism associations needed to develop a code of ethics for reporters to follow when covering such stories.

Another audience member asked how news coverage affected levels of violence in the country.

Rohullah Forogh, head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in the central Bamyan province, said that the media played an important role in avoiding incitement.

“Journalists need to be socially aware and they should be very conscious of their audience,” he said.

Najim Rahim, the head of Roshangar Weekly in Kunduz province in the north, agreed that the media had a major influence on the lives of ordinary people, and expressed regret they had not done more to address concerns such as gender-based violence.

Yusuf Urfan, director of education in Kunduz’s Aliabad district, called for media outlets to actively pursue such issues until justice was achieved.

AIHRC representative Shafiqa Sipar said most Afghan media outlets broadcast graphic images of war, bombing and suicide attacks. She said some outlets were so reckless that their work served to actively promote violence, although she declined to name the offenders.

“Showing corpses, murder scenes and body parts on television can have a negative impact on the public consciousness, particularly children, and the media need to take responsibility for this,” she said.

In the western Ghor province, AIHRC representative Zakerah Moqadim similarly emphasised the effect that images of violence could have on young minds. Moqadim said the media routinely reported on bombings in graphic detail, regardless of the impact this might have on children.

“The media have to change the manner in which they cover news,” she concluded.

Nasir Ahmad Azhand, the editor-in-chief of Ghor’s Agah Monthly, said that the vulgarity of popular television dramas had also had a negative impact on society.

Azhand added that the media were powerful but needed better management.

Mohammed Wazir Norani, head of the Ghor human rights network, spoke out in defence of Afghan journalism and its achievements.

“We have some good media outlets in the country and it is unfair to overlook their contributions,” he said.

However, he agreed that images of death and destruction should be avoided.

This report is based on an ongoing series of debates conducted as part of the IWPR programme Afghan Reconciliation: Promoting Peace and Building Trust by Engaging Civil Society.

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