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

Afghan Youth Debates: Media Played Crucial Watchdog Role in Elections

By Mohammad Faisal Nawid






Media networks across Afghanistan deserve recognition for their work in helping to monitor the country's recent elections, an IWPR debate has heard.

Rahim Samandar, director of the independent Wakht News Agency based in the capital Kabul, said journalists had a right to feel proud of their part in contributing to the polls’ success.

Contrary to some expectations, Afghans across all 34 of the country's provinces voted in large numbers during the April 5 presidential and provincial council ballots.

Preliminary results indicate that two former ministers vying to replace President Hamed Karzai are ahead. They will go into a second-round run-off so that one can secure the more than 50 per cent share of the vote needed to win. Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, currently stands at 44 per cent, closely followed by Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former finance minister and World Bank technocrat with 33 per cent.

“Afghan media outlets played a great role in covering the elections," Samandar told students during the April 15 event in Kabul. "In previous votes. it was international journalists who did most of the work, but now Afghan networks have been involved in all the build-up and post election stages. They've provided better coverage this time."

The IWPR-run debate took place in front of 60 male and female students from Bakhtar University. Panellists included Ahmad Zia Rafat, a lecturer at Kabul University and Hashmat Radfar, the deputy of Afghanistan's Electoral Media Commission (EMC).

Wahidullah, a student at Kabul University, asked what role Afghan media outlets had played in reducing the scale of fraud in the elections.

Rafat responded saying it was the ability of journalists to help monitor the polls that had been critical to reducing rates of corruption.

“Electoral organisations and candidates’ supporters were afraid of scandals reaching the media, and this helped reduce the level of possible fraud,” he said.

Mohammad Faisal Nawid is a student at Kabul 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.