New York, November 29, 2011–When delegates from more than 100 countries and international aid organizations meet in Bonn on December 5 at an international conference on Afghanistan’s future, they must alter their tactics and aim more to support the professionalization and safety training of the country’s emerging press corps, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday. Though Afghan media outlets have expanded rapidly in the post-Taliban-rule era, journalists need to be better trained and must know how to survive the threats and dangers that are part of their daily lives in order to ensure that the country’s fragile democracy has robust media.
Afghanistan has 200 print media outlets, 44 television stations, 141 radio stations, and at least eight news agencies, according to a report prepared for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Yet journalists still lack the training and skills they need to survive the dangers that are part of their daily lives. CPJ research and news reports underscore the fragility of the Afghan media, as well as the Karzai government’s growing animosity toward the press. Attacks on journalists go uninvestigated, and Afghan reporters tell CPJ they regularly receive threats.
A critical assessment of the situation, published by the U.S. Institute for Peace, also shows that many of the country’s media outlets, which are funded by international aid agencies, are not financially sustainable in the long run. Others are closely tied to regional political groups–“warlord TV” is a term frequently used to describe such media houses. With such a dynamic media environment, international planners should look to strengthen the country’s press corps rather than simply invest in media organizations and equipment.
“Much of the media in Afghanistan is a direct result of the generosity of international donors and the efforts of entrepreneurial Afghans, as well as of those with overt political motives. But for sustainable development, the delegates attending the Bonn conference should invest not just in printing presses and TV stations but also encourage the development of the country’s press corps,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Increased training in journalism and safety procedures and proper equipment for the media are necessary so that the Afghan public can have access to reliable news.”
The December 5 conference in Bonn will be convened on the 10th anniversary of the first such meeting, officially known as the Agreement on Provisional Arrangements in Afghanistan Pending the Re-Establishment of Permanent Government Institutions, in Bonn in 2001. The conference, held at the time to assess the state of the country after the Taliban were removed from power, led to the formation of the transitional government and later to President Hamid Karzai’s election.
Afghanistan ranks sixth on CPJ’s Global Impunity Index, which assesses conditions in countries where journalists are slain and their killers go free.