Afghanistan: April ‘09

IWPR growing reputation in Afghanistan highlighted by meeting with top US envoy for the region.

Afghanistan: April ‘09

IWPR growing reputation in Afghanistan highlighted by meeting with top US envoy for the region.

Monday, 22 June, 2009

IWPR Afghanistan discussed local developments with leading western diplomats while Afghan organisations in different parts of the country underlined the importance of the Institute’s training activities and story production.

In April, Jean MacKenzie, the IWPR programme director, was one of just a handful of journalists invited to the United States embassy in Kabul for a meeting with Richard Holbrooke, special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, together with Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.


The two high-ranking officials were in the capital to explain the new strategy unveiled by the Obama administration at the end of March, and also to sound out potential candidates for Afghanistan’s presidential elections, slated for August.


They were eager to brief journalists on their positions, but had time only for one short meeting with a select few. The New York Times, the Associated Press, Agence France Presse, IWPR, and several Afghan media outlets were present at the briefing.


In addition, MacKenzie and veteran IWPR reporter Yaqub Ibrahimi were invited to dinner with representatives of the German embassy to brief a visiting parliamentarians on developments in the country.


Ibrahimi also visited Spain, France, Denmark and Germany, appearing in various forums warning of the decreasing freedom for journalists at home.


Meanwhile, representatives of the Experts’ Council, in Herat, and the Cultural Restoration Organisation, in Mazar-e-Sharif, have spoken of the important contribution IWPR is making in terms of information dissemination and training.


Mohammad Rafiq Shahir, head of the Herat body, which brings together professionals from social, political, economic and cultural institutions in the city to advise government and NGOs, said the council regarded IWPR output as an important and reliable news source.


“We use IWPR to obtain information about most ongoing issues in Afghanistan and even other parts of the world, and I think the stories published there are more accurate than other media outlets.


“IWPR reports on subjects with more explanation and details than other sources. Sometimes it unveils really important issues.”


He also pointed out that whenever he wanted to find out more detail or statistics about local matters IWPR was his first port of call.


Shafea Rahimi, from the Mazar cultural organisation, commended the range and comprehensiveness of IWPR reports too, and also highlighted the role of the Institute’s journalism workshops in the development of local reporters.


“By training the journalists, this institute has done a lot for them and has provided good facilities for journalists’ use,” he said.


In April, several IWPR stories generated interest amongst locals and international observers.


Steve Landrigan, an author who is currently working on a book about the Afghan carpet industry, contacted IWPR after reading Afghanistan’s Frustrated Singles, which dealt with the high price of getting married, and its unfortunate consequences on both young men and women in the society.


“IWPR has all of the back story,” he told MacKenzie. “No one else even comes close.”


Another Kabul-based author, Matthew Leeming, told her that IWPR was “streets ahead of everyone else” in their reporting.

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