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IFJ Calls for Protection of Journalists as Tensions Mount in Afghanistan Ahead of Elections

By: Press Release Posted: July-23-2009 in
Press Release

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called upon the government of Afghanistan to protect journalists and set “model standards” for democracy if it wants upcoming elections in the country to be fair.

Speaking at a national assembly of journalists’ leaders from across the country in Kabul at the weekend, IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said Afghanistan needed to provide more access to information to media, more guarantees of safety for journalists and more professionalism in the state broadcasting system, which is heavily biased in favour of governing parties.

“There is no democracy when information is politically controlled, when journalists work in conditions of fear, and when media, often hampered by low standards, operate in a quagmire of corruption,” White told delegates of the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association.

White said that media were already coming under pressure as political tension in the country mounts ahead of presidential elections and regional elections in the coming months.

“The political community and the government in particular must demonstrate a commitment to democracy by setting model standards when it comes to treatment of media,” he said. “We need less pressure, more useful information and a wider recognition that pluralism bolstered by a free media system is key to helping citizens exercise their right to vote at election time.”

In a meeting on Saturday with Information Minister Abdul Karim Khurram, White called on the government to show its concern for the dangers facing journalists by issuing reports on the killings of journalists in the country over the past year. He also said the state broadcasting system needs to display more public responsibility and less allegiance to the government in the coming months.

The IFJ is also calling on journalists and media themselves to act to counter low levels of professionalism in many parts of the media. The IFJ Ethical Journalism Initiative will be the basis for training and more support for independent journalism.

White said the Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) should play a leading role in building unity among reporters and editors.

“A divided community of journalists is a gift to the enemies of press freedom,” White said commenting on the splits that have separated journalists in recent years. “Journalists in Afghanistan will not be able to fight for their rights unless they can speak with one strong, unified and independent voice.”

The AIJA concluded its assembly with a call for national unity among journalists and reaffirmed its commitment to a National Charter on Media and Democracy agreed two years ago. Leaders of the AIJ said they were determined to implement fresh actions to assist journalists and to build partnerships among journalists’ groups.

For more information contact the IFJ at: + 32 2 235 2207
IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 123 countries around the world

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