Policy & Advocacy
Press freedom cannot exist if safety for journalists isn’t guaranteed. Violent acts against journalists, impunity for those who commit them, and restriction to access to information are three of the biggest threats to media freedom in Afghanistan today.
According to the Afghanistan Journalists Center(AFJC) data, 117 (+ 2 in Pakistan) journalists and media workers killed since 2001 in Afghanistan; 4 so far in 2020 with over %90 of these crimes going unpunished. AFJC is seeking justice for the slain journalists and speaking up for these silenced voices.
AFJC is at the forefront of the battle to ensure a safe working environment for journalists in Afghanistan; an environment that enables them to work free of fear and danger.
End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists
In 2014 Afghanistan Journalists Center(AFJC) became the first organization to raise the issue of impunity for the crimes against journalists in Afghanistan. AFJC launched the campaign against impunity with the support of IFEX, a global network promoting and defending the freedom of expression after the organization identified the issue as one of the single greatest threats to press freedom in the country. By doing so we raised awareness on the issue of the safety of journalists in all 34 provinces of the country.
As part of a global campaign initiated by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in late August 2016, AFJC along with a coalition of media outlets, NGOs, journalists, and prominent public figures called on the Afghan government to support the appointment of a UN Special Representative for the safety of journalists. An official letter was sent to the Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and President’s Chief Advisor on Public Relations Nader Nadery, requesting the government to include the issue in the government’s official statement at the UN General Assembly.
Fortunately, while addressing to the 71st session of the UNGA, Afghanistan’s Second Vice President Sarwar Danish declared the government’s support for the appointment of a UN special representative on journalists’ safety.
In 2018 AFJC together with the global freedom of expression organization ARTICLE 19, in a letter to the foreign minister Rabbani and the country’s representatives to UN and HRC requested to co-sponsor the new resolution on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.
In 2019/2020, as part of a national-wide training program for 240 journalists and 100 media directors, AFJC developed a journalists’ safety handbook and media security policy guidelines with the purpose of protecting and preserving press freedom and freedom of expression. Also, in an open letter signed by more than 200 journalists from around the country, AFJC urged President Ashraf Ghani to ensure that media freedom and the protection of journalists are top priorities.
Afghanistan Press Freedom Tracker
In 2019 AFJC created Afghanistan Press Freedom Tracker in three languages (Persian/Dari, Pashto, English) to provide reliable, easy-to-access information on the number of press freedom violations in Afghanistan. The press freedom tracker aims to comprehensively document press freedom violations in all 34 provinces of the country committed by terrorist groups, security forces, and local authorities, as well as by private individuals. These include journalist killings, abduction, arrest, Injury, physical attack, armed attack, insult, threat, and more.
UNESCO Report on the Safety of Journalists
In 2016 IFEX, the global network promoting and defending the freedom of expression worldwide through AFJC wrote to Afghan officials in non-response to the UNESCO Director-General’s request to provide information on the status of judicial inquiries into the killings of journalists that occurred between 2006 to 2015.
In 2017 following AFJC’s second national wide campaign, IFEX reported that the campaign proved to be successful as the Afghan government agreed to report to UNESCO.
National Committee for the Safety and Security of Journalists
In 2016 AFJC, as a member of the Federation of journalists and media organizations played a key role in the creation of the Joint Committee for the Safety and Security of Journalists (JCSSJ). The JCSSJ includes senior government officials and members of the Federation of journalists and media organizations including AFJC, who meet on monthly basis to review security and safety threats and address other significant matters.
National Journalist Day
In 2014 on the initiative of AFJC’s executive director Ahmad Quraishi, the organization’s executive board proclaimed the 24th of Hoot, the last month of the solar year (March 18) as the “journalist day”, that was widely welcomed by journalists around the country. Also, as part of this initiative, AFJC honors top Afghan journalists selected by a jury committee with the annual “Afghanistan Journalist of the Year’ prize. The prize is formally conferred to the winner at a big ceremony in Kabul.
In 2018 AFJC’s six-year-long campaign and lobby paid off and the Afghan cabinet chaired by President Ashraf Ghani welcomed the initiative and agreed to enter ‘National Journalist Day’ at the Afghan calendar and since then is officially celebrated every year.
Controversial media law amendment
In 2020 AFJC supported media to protest against the government plan to amend media law that led to the dropping of the controversial media law amendment.
Code of Ethics
In 2015 AFJC was a key player behind the drafting of the codes of ethics for journalists in Afghanistan. The code which was approved during a big gathering of journalists held by the Federation of journalists and media organization in Kabul is considered a guide that encourages all who engage in journalism to take responsibility for the information they provide.
The code reflects the viewpoints of over 400 journalists from across Afghanistan and is designed in six chapters such as accountability, impartiality, balanced, reduction of risk, authenticity, and professional behavior at work. The need to develop codes of journalism in Afghanistan was felt following consistent criticism by the Afghan government and some corners of society that journalists needed a better ethical or professional framework.