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

Afghanistan: Oct '08

Dozens attend training workshops at IWPR’s new journalism facility in Mazar.
By IWPR

IWPR held the first workshops for its Journalism Training and Reporting Project for northern Afghanistan.

In all, 45 journalists attended the training sessions in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh Province. These were split into two smaller groups, 27 Dari speakers group, and 18 who preferred instruction in Pashto. The division along linguistic lines was made at the request of the journalists themselves.

Programme director Jean MacKenzie, programme manager Abaceen Nasimi and local editor Hafizullah Gardesh traveled from Kabul for the sessions, where they were joined by local partner, Qayum Babak. The training team worked intensively for six days with the two groups.

The workshops were held at IWPR’s new facility in Mazar-e-Sharif, which contains a computer centre for local journalists, where they have access to the Internet; a conference room where training sessions are held; a meeting room where journalists can hold informal gatherings; and offices for the local staff.

The initial workshops covered the basics of journalism, including principles and ethics, the value of news, and story structure. Journalists were then encouraged to propose stories to the IWPR editorial team, who will then work with and mentor the trainees as they complete their assignments.

This is the initial phase of a three-year project. IWPR has identified a group of journalists with whom it will be working for the next nine months. In all, IWPR will conduct a minimum of six workshops with each group, and will work with each journalist on reporting and writing stories, which will then be published on the IWPR website, as well as syndicated both locally and internationally.

The workshops were quite well received. One journalist told the training team that he had learned much that was not covered in his journalism classes at Balkh University. Other journalists have already called to request a place in the next training group, which will begin in summer, 2009.

With all of the training and organisational activity, IWPR story production has taken a dip. In all, two reports appeared on the website in October.

Afghan Land Dispute Sparks Ethnic Tension (ARR 302, 8 Oct 08) looked at the very delicate issue of land ownership in the northern province of Takhar. Refugees who had fled during successive waves of violence returned to find their lands had been confiscated and, in many cases, sold in their absence. The local authorities, rather than have the predominantly Pashtun returnees clash with the mostly Uzbek local population, incarcerated the returnees in a local prison.

Kambakhsh to Fight On (ARR 303, 22 Oct 08) is the latest installment in the tale of Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh, journalism student and brother of IWPR reporter Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi. The young man has been in jail for over a year, on the vague charge of insulting Islam. He is accused of having downloaded and distributed material from the Internet, criticising Islam’s position on women. Originally sentenced to death, Kambakhsh now faces 20 years behind bars, unless the Supreme Court overturns the Appeal Court’s verdict.

IWPR has been extremely active in the Kambakhsh case, liaising with various human rights groups to get the story out.