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Afghan Youth Debates: Media Watchdog's Election Role Outlined

By Fazil Nagar

A spokesman for the Independent Election Commission (IEC) in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar has outlined the role of a newly-created body responsible for monitoring the media.

The Media Commission is part of the IEC, and its remit is limited to examining press and broadcast coverage of elections.

Speaking at an IWPR debate in Nangarhar’s main city Jalalabad, IEC spokesman Kamran Layeq told an audience of students that the new commission's job was to ensure all media outlets maintained high standards of journalism and reported in a balanced and impartial way.

Layeq said that the Media Commission could have media organisations that broke the rules taken to court, fined, or even closed down in the most serious cases. He said anyone who had evidence of a breach of the commission's regulations should immediately file a complaint.

“The Media Commission has been established within the framework of the IEC to liaise with media outlets and monitor their activities,” Layeq told the debate. “Its regulations require the press to treat all presidential and provincial candidates equally throughout the election campaign. If any are found to be in breach of the regulations, they can be fined or even shut down.”

The debate was held at the Spinghar Hotel in Jalalabad on February 27, with panellists including civil activists Mohammad Anwar Sultani and Mohammad Asef Shinwari.

Shinwari told the students how important media impartiality was to the success of the elections and to the future of the country. He said newspapers, TV and radio stations should strive to put their audiences’ concerns first, rather than carry material biased to private agendas.

“If you want people to trust you," he said, "then treat every story fairly and apply good journalistic standards."

Abas Babakarkhel, an undergraduate at Nangarhar University, raised the question of whether any election candidate had been found to have been using government resources during campaigning. IEC rules ban the use of government buildings for campaign meetings, or employment of public servants as campaign agents during office hours.

Layeq told the debate that some candidates had already been fined for behaving inappropriately.

“If anyone has a complaint in this regard, they should file it with the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission," he said.

Fazil Nagar is a student at Nangarhar 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.

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