Afghanistan: May '09

IWPR seeking to bridge gap between classroom studies and daily practice in Herat.

Afghanistan: May '09

IWPR seeking to bridge gap between classroom studies and daily practice in Herat.

IWPR began the first phase of a radio journalism training programme in Herat with a workshop for journalists from Herat and Badghis provinces.

Participants included an additional trainee from Farah province, which was in the news in May because of a large number of civilian casualties from a US bombing raid. Reporting of that raid by IWPR trainees and others led Coalition forces to acknowledge that mistakes had been made.

Herat – which shares a long border with Iran and has a rich historical and cultural background – is the centre for the western economic zone of the country. This has made the province a focus of attention for quite some time.

A large media hub has emerged there since 2001, encouraging a considerable number of young people to study journalism. Local media include 11 radio stations, five television stations and more than 40 print outlets.

While journalists in Herat are highly skilled in professional theory, IWPR is seeking to bridge the gap between classroom studies and daily practice, whether in the studio or the field.

For its first training programme in the province, IWPR selected a wide range of trainees from the journalistic community – including reporters from local and international radio stations, freelancers and journalism students.

The five-day training session was conducted jointly by radio consultant Louise Miner and veteran IWPR editor Hafizullah Gardesh from May 10 to 15.

The students demonstrated considerable enthusiasm for the workshop. At the end of the training session, many of them proposed radio packages for IWPR, and asked for follow-on training to further enhance their skills.

Meanwhile, in Farah province, Herat’s neighbour to the south, May began with a major controversy over civilian casualties as a result of a US bombing raid in Bala Baluk district. The official version of events contrasted greatly with reports from local residents.

While the US-led Coalition initially claimed that no civilians were killed, rhe Afghan Human Rights Commission, which conducted an investigation, said that 97 had lost their lives – 65 of them children.

IWPR trainees Fetrat Zirak and Shahpour Sabir were able to travel to the area and report on the bombing from a local perspective.

Their reporting allowed IWPR to help dispel some rumours that had been circulating about the use of white phosphorus.

They also have given voice to local frustration with the bombing raids that are driving more and more Afghans into the arms of the insurgency.

IWPR then published the story US Soul-Searching Following Farah Tragedy.

Once this story, as well as reports from handful of other media outlets, was out, the Coalition forces launched an investigation and eventually acknowledged that they had made mistakes that resulted in the deaths of scores of civilians.

IWPR also published the report Regional Summit Dismissed as “Elaborate Showpiece”.

In the report, Yaqub Ibrahimi, a veteran IWPR journalist from the north of Afghanistan, punctured the hype surrounding the trilateral summit between Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan by talking to analysts and ordinary Afghans about their perceptions of the event.

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