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

Afghanistan: Nov-Dec ‘08

New IWPR facility opened in Mazar and training extended to northern provinces that have previously seen little in way of media development.

The launch of a new media centre in Mazar-e-Sharif, on November 20, providing computers, online access, a training room and a place where journalists can gather to discuss issues was the highlight of a busy period for the project in which training activities were significantly expanded.

Eva Joelsdotter, the Swedish government’s development advisor to the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar, gave an opening address, as did IWPR’s director, Jean MacKenzie, and representatives from the government and local media outlets. Speeches were followed by a reception at the media centre, attended by dozens of local journalists and media managers.

Also in November, IWPR Afghanistan expanded its training schedule to encompass Jowzjan and Faryab, two provinces that have seen little in the way of media development. In Shiberghan, capital of Jowzjan province, the training drew close to 30 journalists, including many managers working for the state media. This proved to be both challenging and rewarding, as these managers confronted certain issues of fairness and objectivity in the light of their professional obligations.

In Maimana, capital of Faryab, journalists had had very little previous training, and were a bit sceptical at the start. But the training team, which included MacKenzie, local editor Hafizullah Gardesh and regional manager Qayum Babak, were able to win them over. The head of the local department of information and culture, Reza Shah Munshizada, told the IWPR team that their work had been extremely valuable for Faryab.

Both provinces will have a second round of training early in the New Year.

In December, the Kabul office conducted recruitment for the central provinces. The team held rounds of testing, one for the primarily Dari-speaking provinces of Parwan and Kapisa, as well as Dari speakers from Kabul; the other drew journalists from Logar, Wardak and Ghazni, where Pashto predominates. Training will begin shortly after New Year.

Radio trainer Sally Cooper led the second round of training for journalists in Mazar over Christmas week. In January, these journalists will progress to training for broadcast media as well.

Also in December, IWPR journalist Mohammad Ilyas Dayee did an update on the much-publicised story of an attack on schoolgirls in Kandahar (See: Kandahar Schools Empty After Acid Attack on Girls). The original story had been on television screens throughout the world, but few had tried to monitor the aftermath of the vicious incident, in which a group of young girls were sprayed with acid as they left school on November 12.

The reporter found that the consequences of the attack went far beyond the immediate damage to the unfortunate girls. The school was all but empty, weeks after the attack, and no one knew how much longer parents would keep their daughters at home, in fear that further attacks were on the horizon.

Other outstanding reports during the period include a piece on a raid in the north, in which angry locals claim that they were beaten and robbed in the course of an anti-narcotics operation (See: Confusion and Anger Over Balkh Raid), and an examination of attitudes towards foreign forces in the normally stable north (See: ISAF Risks Losing Hearts and Minds in North).

Both articles point to the effects that IWPR’s new training project will have on northern Afghanistan, which has been given much less attention than the more volatile south.

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