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

Herat Office Boosting Local Journalism

Afghan regional centre gives reporters practical help as well as a forum to meet and exchange ideas.

Journalists and officials say that the IWPR office in Herat has not only provided invaluable resources for local reporters but also helped enhance the standard of journalism in the region.

Operating for just under a year, the IWPR centre in Herat, an important provincial capital in the west of the country, offers free computer and internet access as well as providing a forum for journalists to meet and network.

It has proved particularly important for female reporters, who find it hard to practice their profession because of the region’s conservative attitudes.

“Before the establishment of this office I used to write reports with immense problems,” said Sudaba Afzaalie, a freelance journalist. “The information I needed was hard to get and when my report was completed I had to go to an internet café to send it, bearing in mind that in a traditional society like Herat there are taboos which make it hard for a girl to go to an internet café.

“But now I can go without any cares to the IWPR office and work there, because everyone knows that it is there for the local media.”

“I learnt my journalism at this office,” said Mohammad Najeem Raheem, an IWPR-trained reporter, adding that many institutions had in the past promised to provide local journalists with resources, but such initiatives had always been short-lived and had failed to have any impact.

“So far no institute has been able to provide services compared to what IWPR has been doing, because most of them operated for a very short time and then closed,” he said. “IWPR has not only provided services for the journalists but also trains them in various fields  - and then pays good wages for the reports they write, which is a huge boost for motivation.”

Raheem added that the IWPR centre has been a great venue to make friends and exchange ideas.

 “In this office we can sit around, discuss various issues, find ideas for topics, work on them and judge each other’s work,” he went on. 

A lively media scene has emerged in Herat since the overthrow of the Taleban a decade ago, encouraging many young people to study journalism. Local media include 11 radio stations, five television stations and more than 40 print outlets.

IWPR has commissioned a regular stream of stories from its Herat trainees, some of which have resulted in positive outcomes. For example, one report highlighting the growing number of improvised explosive devices, IEDs, in the region prompted the authorities to provide the Herat police with extra training in bomb disposal techniques.

Fairuz Zia, a reporter working for local media including Saaqi television and Radio Voice of Youth, said, “From the date this office was opened, 90 per cent of the problems faced by the journalists working in various media in Herat have been solved, because of the availability of computers and fast internet connections provided by the office, free of charge to the journalists. This is a great attraction for the local reporters here.”

Officials from the directorate of information and culture in Herat also said they appreciated IWPR’s efforts and felt that a focal point had been established for the Herat media.

Waalishaha Bahra, the directorate’s head, said the authorities had clearly witnessed how the IWPR office had enabled journalists to write better and more effective reports.

“The directorate of information and culture greatly appreciates and supports the work IWPR is doing in Herat,” he said. 

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