I've been making the rounds of journalists and organizations in Kabul for the last several days. As I mentioned in my last post, I've been asked to come up with a support plan for journalists after next year's presidential elections, the drawdown of international troops, and an expected reduction in international aid.
I'm in Kabul for several days, making the rounds of journalists' organizations and media houses. My brief is to see what, if anything, can be done to protect journalists after the withdrawal of NATO troops during and after 2014. But "post-2014" has much different connotations for the Afghans with whom I've spoken or been in email correspondence. They see post-2014 as the period that follows national elections. With foreign troops increasingly staying close to their bases, Afghans are fully aware their future is in their own hands.
Almost half of the 67 journalists killed worldwide in 2012 were targeted and murdered for their work, research by the Committee to Protect Journalists shows. The vast majority covered politics. Many also reported on war, human rights, and crime. In almost half of these cases, political groups are the suspected source of fire. There has been no justice in a single one of these deaths.
For now, the Afghan government's apparent attempt at railroading through a less-than-media-friendly new Mass Media Law without consultation seems to have been sidelined, though not derailed. On Sunday in Kabul, representatives of the Ministry of Information and Culture received recommendations from civil society workers and journalists, including some from the provinces, which were drawn up at a June 27 meeting organized by Internews's Nai Media Institute in Afghanistan.
One thing that had better be high on the agenda this weekend at the meeting of 70 or so international aid donors for Afghanistan in Tokyo is the recently released official draft version of the Mass Media Law (a copy of the draft can be found here). I mentioned the new draft in a June blog, "Afghan media is under political and economic pressure." The real thing is even worse than expected.
Danish Karokhel, who won a CPJ International Press Freedom Award in 2008, messaged this morning concerned that the news agency he runs, Pajhwok Afghan News, and some other media outlets have been referred to the Attorney General's Office by the Ministry of Information and Culture for reporting on an alleged bribery scandal involving a member of Parliament. The action was taken by the ministry's Media Monitoring Commission, and could lead to criminal charges.
Wednesday, the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) released its report, "Death of an Uruzgan Journalist: Command Errors and Collateral Damage," by Kate Clark on the July 2011 shooting death of journalist Omaid Khpalwak. Clark's details on how Khpalwak died corroborate and then go beyond the investigation already conducted by the U.S.-led NATO forces who were responsible. Her report was important to write, and is important to read.
"Of course you have to go to Afghanistan or to Syria," said French TV reporter Hervé Ghesquière, who was held hostage for 547 days in Afghanistan together with his cameraman, Stéphane Taponier, between December 2010 and June 2011.