CPJ encouraged by interim administration’s pledge to promote press freedom

Reconstruction and Development of Media in Afghanistan
The Ministry of Information and Culture Policy Directions

6th June 2002

Our plan for the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan’s media is rooted in the vision of a social and political future that our people deserve and aspire to, and has been promised by our government – a free, independent and united Afghanistan, where government is the servant of the people and accountable to them; where there is peace, justice and the rule of law; and where people can build a modern society in accordance with the principles of Islam, democracy and human rights.

This vision cannot be realised without free and independent media, which can reflect our society as it is, truthfully and without bias. Our people must be able to believe what they are told by their radio, television and press if they are to trust their fellow-citizens and their leaders. The media must become an essential instrument in making the government transparent and accountable, and in generating national debate on the crucial decisions which we will have to make in the rebuilding of our country in the years ahead.

Our people have lived through more than two decades of war and poverty. Most of them are illiterate. But they have been avid listeners of international radio and they are a sophisticated audience. They appreciate and depend on reliable information. The Afghan media will have to match the standards of their international competitors if they are to win the respect and confidence of the Afghan audience.

People all over the world, and Afghanistan is no exception, have access to a multitude of international radio and television channels, thanks to modern satellite communications. This massive flow of information cannot be controlled and our media have no choice but to compete in a global market.

Our press law, issued in February 2002, was a first step in opening up the media environment in Afghanistan, allowing the establishment of commercial and private radio, television, press and news agencies. To help and encourage them further, we intend to amend, to clarify and to extend the scope of our press law and develop the infrastructure which the media need to work more effectively.

Key Policy Directions

  • We propose to establish an Independent Broadcasting Authority to be responsible for frequency allocation and for granting broadcasting licences. The Authority will be protected against political interference and will work according to clearly defined criteria. In close consultation with broadcasters and representative institutions of civil society, it will develop regulatory guidelines for the electronic media.
  • We propose to transform the state radio and television into a national public service broadcaster, which will be editorially independent and accountable to the public. An independent governing body, representing a wide cross-section of Afghan society, will oversee the functioning of the national radio and television and will guarantee its editorial independence.
  • Everyone, everywhere in our country should over time have access to the programmes of the national radio and television, which will reflect fairly the ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity of all the people of Afghanistan, men and women.
  • Education will be an essential component in our national radio and television programming, covering a wide range of disciplines including the promotion of civil society and practical skills education.
  • Afghanistan is a Muslim country and Islam as a religion and culture is an indissoluble part of our heritage. We will require the national public broadcaster to give due place to Islam and its role in our changing tolerant society.
  • The government will have to fund the national broadcaster for several years to come. But as the Afghan economy grows we will look carefully at other potential sources of funding. In the long term the national broadcaster will need to have a method of funding which can further safeguard its editorial independence.
  • We propose to reform the management structure of the national radio and television and introduce modern policies and practices in its administrative, editorial, technical, financial and human resources management.
  • We will need a comprehensive programme of training throughout all levels and functions in all media sectors, in strategic planning, management, financial, editorial, technical, and production skills.
  • We propose to review the status of the government news agency, Bakhtar, with the objective of transforming it into a national public service institution, which will be editorially independent, and accountable to the public.
  • As telecommunication infrastructure improves and access to the Internet grows in Afghanistan, we will help and encourage both the public and private sectors to establish online services for audiences in Afghanistan and abroad.
  • Anyone will be able to publish newspapers and periodicals without having to obtain a licence. The printed press will be subject to rules of general application, as defined by common law.
  • We will help and encourage the print sector to develop a self-regulatory code of conduct in accordance with Afghan and international conventions, in close consultation with the representative institutions of civil society.
  • We propose to review the status of all the government newspapers, and allow as many of them as possible to become independent commercial entities.
  • We will help and encourage the establishment of independent institutions for protecting journalists and safeguarding their professional integrity. Journalists will be free to set up professional associations, but will not be required to be members of any particular association to be able to work in the media.

    Next steps

    Over the next weeks and months there will be extensive consultations on these general policy directions with Afghan journalists, representatives of civil society, and a wide range of other stakeholders. We will hold an international seminar from 3rd to 5th of September 2002 in Kabul with Afghan and international specialists to develop our policies into an integrated strategic plan for the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan’s media with international assistance.

    We are determined to rebuild our radio, television and press to international standards, and set them at the forefront of the region’s media.

    6th June 2002