Afghanistan : “No just and lasting peace in Afghanistan without guarantees for press freedom”
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day (3 May), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ) sound the alarm about the plight of the media and the future for journalism in Afghanistan.
The press freedom situation is disastrous in Afghanistan 14 months after the Taliban and United States signed a peace accord on 29 February 2020, and eight months after the Taliban and Afghan government began peace talks.
At least 20 journalists and media workers have been the victims of targeted attacks in the past six months and eight, including four women, have been killed. Around 30 others have received death threats in connection with their journalistic work.
The climate of terror keeps on growing and particularly affects women journalists, whose situation was already precarious. In its latest annual report, published in March, the CPAWJ said it had registered more than 100 cases of aggression – including murder, death threats, physical attacks and insults – against women journalists in the past year.
“The precarity of Afghan women journalists has increased not only as a result of the physical dangers but also as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown,” CPAWJ director Farida Nekzad said. “At least 20% of them have lost their jobs or have been forced to take unpaid leave by their employers.”
The threats and violence against journalists have a direct impact on the media and make their work especially difficult. They result in self-censorship on many subjects, especially those concerning the peace conditions imposed by the foreign forces, the various government factions, and the Taliban. The Taliban have meanwhile threatened journalists and media bosses in several provinces, while local officials have demanded the termination of certain political and entertainment programmes.
“The peace and peaceful coexistence sought by the Afghan people will be impossible to guarantee without the entire society’s participation and will be impossible to realise without a free and independent press,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk.
“Without guarantees for press freedom, they will be no just and lasting peace,” RSF and the CPAWJ say. Action is needed to provide journalists with proper protection, reinforce the laws and ensure respect for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s constitution and decrees, which for 19 years have guaranteed press freedom, protection of journalists and, in particular, the rights of women journalists.
Afghanistan is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.