Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Afghan Youth Debates: Calls for Impartial Media in Kandahar

By Sayed Taj Mohammad

The role of Afghanistan's media in the coming presidential poll is crucial to the success of the election, students at Kandahar University have heard.

Dawa Khan Minapal, head of the Afghan information and culture ministry’s Kandahar branch, said journalists had a significant part to play in raising public awareness about each of the 11 candidates standing for the presidency.

"There is no doubt that media play a big role in elections," Minapal told an IWPR debate held at Kandahar's Press Club on December 8. "The media's job is to inform the public about candidates and their policies."

Rafiullah Omid, a student at the event, argued that some media outlets felt threatened by the government, and warned of attempts to influence their output. "That might affect the transparency of the elections," he added.

But Nesar Ahmad Azad, a former director of Killid Radio, an independent media group with a network of local stations, denied that journalists were under pressure to act as mouthpieces for politicians.

"I don't think the media have been threatened with respect to the elections," he said. "[But] if they are threatened, it will undermine the elections’ transparency."

Sher Khan Afghan, a journalism lecturer at Kandahar University, said reporters also had a personal responsibility to ensure their work remained impartial.

"Reporters have many responsibilities in covering an election. They must have a solid understanding of the functions of the election commission and must not support any one candidate or group."

Sayed Taj Mohammad is a student at Kandahar 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.