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

Afghanistan: Aug ‘08

Preparations for new training and reporting project in the north get underway.

The ramp-up stage of any new project is a busy, confusing time, when a lot of preparatory work has to be done in a very short period. Thanks to grants from the governments of Norway and Sweden, IWPR has spent the month of August in a whirl of activity.

Following July’s reconnaissance trip to the north, the IWPR Kabul team began to map out the practical details of its new training and reporting project, which will encompass the provinces of Balkh, Jowzjan, Samangan, Sar-e-Pul, Faryab, Badghis, Herat, Kabul, Wardak, Ghazni, Logar, Kapisa and Parwan.

In all, more than 100 journalists will participate in the intensive workshops and mentoring programme, which are designed to increase their professional levels by a significant degree.

The project will also shed light on the northern and western provinces, about which we know relatively little. Most media attention has been focused on the south, where the conflict between the insurgents and the government/foreign forces has been the major news out of Afghanistan for the past two years.

Now, IWPR-trained journalists will begin to produce stories about security, reconstruction, drugs, education, and other issues that affect the north.

Training will begin in October, after the long month of Ramadan is over.

In the meantime, the IWPR staff have begun to develop training materials, compose a questionnaire to recruit journalists, and construct a calendar for the workshops.

Reporting continued, albeit at a slightly slower pace. Veteran IWPR journalist Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi delivered two very different pieces from northern Afghanistan: Rape Surrounded by Impunity and Silence documented the rising incidence of sexual assault in the north, as well as attempts to curb it; and Afghan Moonshine a Growth Industry, a more lighthearted piece about homemade stills in the north.

Ibrahimi teamed with a freelancer from Herat, Sedeq Behnam, to cover the bombing in Azizabad, which killed more than 90 civilians, according to several independent investigations. The US military maintains that the air strike targeted and killed Taleban fighters, with seven civilians caught in the cross fire. The two reporters registered the growing anger of the population, who are feeling more and more as if they are being targeted by the foreigners simply for being Afghan.

IWPR’s Helmand team continues to report, and in August produced a report on Garmsir district, the site of heavy operations involving the US Marines. With the battle over, residents are coming back to the area, picking up the pieces of their lives. And IWPR editor Hafizullah Gardesh put his political expertise to good use in Karzai and Gilani Try to Paper Over Differences, an analysis of the most recent crisis in Afghan-Pakistan relations.

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