Conditions for press freedom in the country have been improved unprecedentedly during 16 years. This breakthrough comes amid at greater media steadiness, rising professional standards for journalists, and a decline in legal harassment and censorship. However, violence against journalists remained a serious problem, as the country has been suffering from growing insecurity, and the media continued to face legal and other interference from the authorities. Last year was the deadliest year on record for Afghan media, with 13 journalists killed, the Afghanistan Journalist Safety Committee reported in that time.
The press group documented at least 101 incidents of killing, assault, intimidation, abuse, and other physical attacks, a 38 percent increase over numbers recovered in 2015. Undoubtedly, if this trend continued, and necessary actions are not taken, 2017 could worse. This is absolutely an ugly and worrying situation for the Afghan journalists. But despite all these challenges, free media is considered as one of great achievements of the incumbent and the former governments. They are proud of having free media. It is worth mentioning that free media doesn’t mean to have unbalanced report. The Afghan journalists maintained this at level best, that’s why there are no journalists in jail in the whole country for reporting unbalance or one sided report. Taking this view, the Afghan government and the people would not let anyone to undermine this achievement.
However, recently Hezb-e-Islami leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar addressing a crowd of supporters in eastern Afghanistan has described some media outlets as cursed, saying they must stop promoting sedition and ethnic division. But thanks to the Ministry of Information and Culture that struck back at Hekmatyar, saying that no official or any party could slap restrictions on the media in the country. Furthermore, NAI—Organization Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan said Hekmatyar’s attacks on the media was an insult. This stance is very interesting, because it has been for two days that Hekmatyar appeared in public, but he directly attacked media. Old and extremist view on media is not acceptable to any level. NIA said that Hekmatyar does not believe in democracy, press freedom and would try to put pressure on the media. It is very much important for Hekmatyar to get realize of the changed that has been made in the country. Afghanistan is practicing democracy, it is not old Afghanistan or under civil war. The freedom of media gained at cost of lives of several reporters, and it’s imperative to every political party to feel responsibility over its protection.
At the same time it is the duty of the National Unity Government to make sure no group allowed pressurizing media outlets. It is very much important for Hekmatyar to put aside his views and go with what Afghanistan accomplished at the absence of him in the past 15 years. Media is a source of information, don’t try to restrict it. Let’s not forget that media is playing a role of mediation, and it is media that reaching the voice of Hekmatyar himself to the public. Media voice is your voices don’t forget.
Afghanistan Times, May 2, 2017