5 February 2020
Kabul—Afghanistan Journalists Center(AFJC) backs the Afghan media’s protests Against” Severe Limitation in Access to information”, calls on Afghan government to assure free and indiscriminate access to information.
According to the Tolonews, 30 different media organizations in Afghanistan, signed a strongly-worded statement issued on Tuesday accusing the Afghan government of a “double standard” in its dealings with the nation’s media. On the one hand, the government touts its commitment to supporting a free press, while on the other hand it “severely restricts” media access to information about its security forces, financial activity, and legal system, the statement claims.
The statement notes that despite being “one of the deadliest places to be a journalist,” Afghanistan media is still the “freest in the region,” but says that the “carelessness of the government,” will endanger this “hard-won achievement.”
Afghanistan Journalists’ Center executive director Ahmad Quraishi voiced serious concern about the issue and said that the Afghanistan has adequate legislation guaranteeing the media's ability to work and access information exists, but the government has been negligent in enforcing the law on access to information.
“We consider limitation in access to information a major threat to press freedom in Afghanistan, and support the Afghan media and increased access to government information.” He said
The Afghan media’s call for the government and the international community “act in the strongest possible ways” to “safeguard the free flow of information” is a response to a perceived lack of transparency across nearly a dozen government bodies.
The “worst” offenders named by the statement were the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s Office, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Office of the President and its procurement unit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Public Health.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office responded to the Afghan media’s statement, defended the government’s record in providing information to media and supporting a free press.
Waheed Omer, head the Office of Public and Strategic Affairs at the Presidential Palace, speaking at a press conference provided numbers about instances in which the government has provided information to the media about certain cases.
On February 8, he twitted that “We’ll take spokespeople from all the entities mentioned in the statement for a face to face talk. We cannot afford an environment of mistrust and lack of communication between us and media.”
Afghanistan’s access to information law ranked best in the world by Center for Law and Democracy in 2018. Based on the law signed off by President Ashraf Ghani, people of Afghanistan have the right to access information from state departments.