Afghan Debates Hold Media to Account

Speakers say that public trust can only be won through a higher degree of professionalism.

Afghan Debates Hold Media to Account

Speakers say that public trust can only be won through a higher degree of professionalism.

The growth of a flourishing media sector in Afghanistan has been hailed as one of the country’s most notable achievements since the fall of the Taleban in 2001.

An abundance of newspapers, magazines, websites and television channels have sprung up in the years since, although quantity has not always been matched with quality.

Speakers at a series of IWPR debates in Kandahar, Zabul, Farah, Laghman, Maidan Wardak, and Khost provinces last month criticised some media outlets for a lack of professionalism.

In Maidan Wardak province, independent journalist Mohibullah Sharif said that impartiality was vital.

“Media should provide equal opportunities for all parties involved in the story to speak, so that they give their audience all the information about the issue,” he said.

Abdul Sami Ghairatmal is the head of NAI, an organisation supporting free media in Afghanistan. He told the Kandahar event that some media outlets promoted partisan views and were not entirely honest in their reporting.

Kandahar civil society activist Mohammad Naser Mubariz agreed, warning that public trust in the media was disappearing because of such unethical practices.

In Farah, speakers called on the local media to put more effort into distinguishing between facts and rumours, and the panel in Khost also argued that it was the media that needed to improve its own journalistic standards.

Noora Jan Baheer, a reporter of Radio Killid in Khost, said that the local media had been significantly held back because of this low level of professionalism.

However, other speakers said that government officials had to take responsibility for harming democracy by trying to intimidate local media.

In Laghman province, local reporter Enqilabi Zwan said that officials would only share information with reporters that reflected positively upon their own performance.

 “Government officials never tell the media about people’s problems or corruption in the government institutions in Laghman province,” he said.

In Zabul, speakers also warned that officials were using the media to spread false information that served to improve the government’s official image.

Mohammad Naim Storai, a reporter in Zabul, said, “Some of the government authorities in Zabul put pressure on media outlets to publish the local news in accordance with their wishes.”

This report is part of the IWPR programme Afghan Reconciliation: Promoting Peace and Building Trust by Engaging Civil Society.

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