A hard-fought victory for Afghan Media: Media Complaint Commission dissolved

A hard-fought victory for Afghan Media: Media Complaint Commission dissolved

May 6, 2015

Kabul: Afghanistan Journalists Center praises dissolve of the media complaint commission by the new minister of information and culture, used for more than five years by government to intimidate the press.

“In compliance with article 42 of the Media Public Affairs law, Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC) decided to dissolve the media complaint commission, which will be no longer eligible,” a statement released by the ministry said.

The ministry determined to establish Mass Media Commission after consultation with media outlets, journalists and legal advisors, the statement added.

This comes a day after the ministry accused some print media agencies of breaking the regulations and has called editors of four  newspapers in Kabul to the media complaints commission that provoked anger among journalists and media outfits across the country. Later on, Abdul Bari Jahani, new information and culture minister denied any restrictions on the media and said he was committed to supporting freedom of expression in the country

Afghanistan Journalists Center welcomes the decision by Mr. Janhani, saying it was demand of media for more than five years. The commission chaired by former minister, Saiyed Makhdom Raheen has served largely as a cudgel to intimidate the press, with the minister insisting on “apologies” from journalists when they publish stories critical of the government or of powerful interests, especially in the remote provinces. The ministry mostly turned a blind eye to officials and warlords who intimidate, threaten, or even physically attack on journalists.

The Mass Media Law were passed by parliament and approved by the president in 2009. It includes provisions for an improved complaints process via a Mass Media Commission (MMC), staffed by 7 persons with journalistic qualifications for periods of 2 to 3 years. It revealed that the method of work and activities of the commission shall be regulated by separate bylaw.

Article 43 states that the Commission shall have the duty and authority to review application for print media and online media and proposing their registration and issuance of license to Ministry of Information and Culture, monitor the activities of the mass media, review the complaints by the mass media and solve their legal disputes, refer mass media violations with criminal nature to justice institutions, provide technical consultations to the officials of mass media, supervise the financial, administrative and broadcasting affairs of the National Radio TV, scrutinize annual budget of the State-owned radio (RTA) and submit annual report to the High Media Council.

The law also includes a High Media Council to which the commission should report, neither of these bodies was functioning by May4, 2015. Instead, a Media Violations Investigation Commission, focused mainly on complaints by officials against journalists, continued to function.

Afghanistan Journalists Center has repeatedly sought for the removal of the Media Complaints Commission from within the ministry because it did not follow a legal path.

The media industry in Afghanistan is often heralded as one of the major signs of development and progress since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

The phenomenal growth of the media in Afghanistan has been one of the tremendous achievements of the post-Taliban. From few print and virtually and one state-owned radio station during the Taliban regime, presently a total of 69 private TV channels along with the state run RTA national radio television, 174 radios stations and over hundreds news publications are actively operational in Afghanistan. The media increasingly play a role in public life, including facilitating live coverage of many campaigns, debate and shaping public opinion during the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan's history, in 2014.