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Report Leads to Launch of Herat Media Rights Body

IWPR report on official reluctance to cooperate with the press prompts setting up of media pressure group.

A committee to protect media freedoms in Herat province has been established after IWPR reported on the challenges faced by the local press.

The January 27 story Herat Media Freedom Alarm by Shapoor Saber related how local journalists had warned that provincial and foreign officials were refusing to cooperate with them, hampering their ability to produce balanced reports.

A number of institutions supporting local media, including the Afghan Journalism Centre, have now for the first time come together to address these issues and help provide an organised response to future problems.

Imam Mohammad Warimach, the director of the Afghan Journalism Centre in Herat province, said that the IWPR report had been a central factor behind the creation of the media committee.

Warimach said their first move would be to address reporters’ problems through negotiations with officials. If this was not successful, they would move on to issuing announcements, organising round tables and press conferences or even holding demonstrations.

“The committee also wants to ask IWPR to play an active role in addressing the problems of journalists. As a credible media outlet, it can provide us with assistance,” he said, adding that IWPR’s reports had a considerable impact as they reached a wide audience among both governmental institutions and Afghan civil society.

Khalil Amir, the director of Radio Faryad, welcomed the IWPR report on the lack of official cooperation with the media. In its wake, he said that journalists’ groups were for the first time organising meetings to discuss the alleged restrictions.

“The officials will change their behaviour towards the media, because they will realise that the media outlets which carry out investigative reporting are aware of the issues and won’t forget about them,” he added.

Faruq Faizi, a Voice of America reporter in Herat province, was quoted in the original article describing the problems he had experienced with local officials.

Following the IWPR report, however, Faizi said that some media restrictions had already been eased by Herat government officials. And a number of reporters said the provincial governor, Mohammad Dawood Saba, had recently agreed to conduct interviews with them.

Herat governor spokesman Shafiq Behrozian said he welcomed the publication of the IWPR report, saying that accurate and unbiased articles would only have a positive effect on their work with the media.

“Officials in Herat province have recently tried to build a strong relationship with the media,” he said. 

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