With 13 journalists and two media workers killed since the start of January, 2018 has been the deadliest year for the media since the Taliban government’s fall in 2001. The war imposed by the Taliban and Islamic State and abuses by warlords and corrupt politicians now permanently threaten journalists, the media and press freedom in Afghanistan.
“The increase in targeted attacks on the media and the deterioration in the security situation for women journalists in the run-up to the elections threaten the Afghan people’s sovereignty and democratic choice,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Afghanistan-Iran desk.
“There can be no democratic elections without the freedom to inform. This is why RSF calls on the Afghan government to renew its commitment and involvement in protecting journalists. The continuation of the government’s efforts with regard to security and training is essential.”
Amid pre-election tension and security threats, RSF visited Afghanistan from 14 to 27 September to organize four trainings for a total of 70 journalists (including 32 women) who came from 13 different provinces and represented 53 independent Afghan media.
At the request of the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ), RSF’s partner organization in Afghanistan, RSF organized a specific training for the women reporters that was based on the Safety Guide for Journalists and the Handbook for Journalists during Elections, which have been translated into Persian and Pashto.
RSF also supported the CPAWJ campaign calling on Afghans to “Vote for the candidates that defend the rights of women journalists.” The CPAWJ launched this campaign at a press conference in Kabul on 26 September that was attended by Zohra Yousof, an adviser to First Lady Rola Ghani, presidential spokesman Shah Hossein Mortazavwi, deputy information and culture minister Hossein Fazel Sancharaki, CPAWJ director Farida Nikzad and RSF’s Reza Moini.
The campaign is just one of the initiatives that the CPAWJ has taken to improve the situation of women journalists in Afghanistan. The CPAWJ is also calling for the law banning violence against women to be amended in order to give women more protection against psychological and sexual harassment in the workplace, and for a charter for the protection of women in news organizations.
More than 70 candidates have so far signed the CPAWJ’s declaration and pledged to support this reform. The charter for the protection of women in news organizations that the CPAWJ drafted at the start of September has been signed by many media outlets including such leading TV broadcasters as Tolonews, TV1, Ariana, Zhwandoon TV and National Radio and Television.
According to a report published by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in mid-July, at least 1,692 civilians had been killed in connection with the conflict since the start of the year, and 3,430 had been wounded.
Afghanistan is ranked 118th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.