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

Afghanistan: IWPR Wraps Up Key Investigative Project

Event provides forum for participants to network and share experiences.
By Munir Meharaban

Investigative reporting is actively boosting justice and good governance in Afghanistan, a senior official told a workshop marking the successful completion of a key IWPR project.

Nangarhar governor Gulab Mangal said that he welcomed the atmosphere of openness that free and fair reporting achieved.

He told the event, marking the conclusion of a IWPR investigative journalism project, that this progress was also due to a more professional media that operated to a stricter code of ethics, adding, “If media reports aren’t based on facts, people make bad political and social decisions.”

The late March workshop, held in Nangarhar’s provincial capital Jalalabad, was the culmination of a six-month training programme for investigative journalists from across the country.

The workshop also gave participants the chance to network and share their experiences of working in often hostile environments.

Numan Dost, head of Nai Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan, said that many officials had no understanding of the principles of freedom of expression and access to information.

He said that many public figures thought nothing of intimidating media workers and advised investigative reporters to work in teams for their own safety.

Zulmai, the director of Nangarhar’s Enikas Radio TV Network, agreed, noting that his 200 members of staff all faced frequent faced intimidation and threats.

The network’s general broadcast manager Shukrullah Pasoon added that despite these dangers, investigative reporting helped support the rule of law. But he noted that local reporting focused on conflict rather than the social and economic aspects of peoples’ lives and said that more support was needed to develop specialist skills.

Tolo News reporter Ziyar Khan Yad agreed that local journalists were forced to faced serious risks if they wanted to pursue challenging stories, adding that “investigative reporting in Nangarhar province involves threats and challenges”.

Naqiba Barakzai, who works with Hushdar News Agency in Herat province, said she previously thought that it was only journalists in the west of the country who faced problems with access to the information.

The workshop had given her an opportunity to understand that this was a common challenge across Afghanistan.

Benafsha Benish, a reporter for Herat’s Mehraj Radio for the last three years, said that a key problem was the lack of record-keeping by local government institutions.

“One problem that we faced in our work was when we approached a formal institution only to realise that they had no registration books or archive,” she said. “That meant that without any official figures we could not prove our claims.”

Mahfuz-ul-Haq Kakar, who works with the Pajhwok news agency in eastern Afghanistan, said that the training had given him a far deeper understanding of the importance of accuracy in reporting.

He said that his IWPR mentors had urged him to return to a single source even three or four times to ensure facts were correct and to obtain the strongest possible quote.