Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, April 22nd, 2019

Is the Situation for Journalists Improving?

The world for journalists seems to be getting more difficult; however, there appears to be some improvement for Afghanistan. As per the Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) latest index on Press Freedom, the hatred against the journalists is on the rise; nevertheless, Afghanistan has been placed at 118 out of 180 countries. This placement shows an improvement of two points as compared to last year, but it does not provide a satisfactory state of affairs. Afghanistan needs to improve much as far as the rights and security of journalists are concerned.
According to the RSF, the past year was a particularly deadly year for journalists in Afghanistan as at least 15 journalists and media workers were killed, many in targeted attacks. It also revealed that by sowing terror in some regions, the Taliban and Daesh militants have created information black holes. In some provinces, the Taliban even forced the media to pay arbitrary taxes that were tantamount to ransoms. On the other hand, the report discloses that some governors and local officials are not willing to accept the principle of media independence, and the police and military have been implicated in several cases of violence against journalists.
The situation for Afghan journalists does not seem to be getting much better. The rising insecurity and the lack of attention to the plight of the journalists has led to some very difficult circumstances that the journalists have to go through so as to perform their duties. Even the foreign journalists are facing serious difficulties in fulfilling their responsibilities. Kabul police, on several occasions have warned the foreign nationals and the journalists in particular to limit their travels in the city because of security risks and the risks of kidnapping. Some analysts believe that such warnings by the police, in fact, demoralize the spirits of the journalists in the country and would bar them from collecting information. Instead, the security authorities must ensure the security of the country as a whole and of the journalists, in particular.
Mostly, the societies that are well developed and have great respect for knowledge and information, make sure that the rights of the journalists are guarded properly and they are provided with such circumstances wherein they are able to perform their responsibilities with full dedication and devotion.
On the other hand, the societies that suffer from political instability and experience wars, and disturbances and do not recognize the worth of true knowledge and information tend to forget the vital responsibility of guarding the rights of the journalists. The journalists in such societies tend to suffer from different sorts of discriminations and, unfortunately, even lose their lives.
Mostly conflict zones are dangerous for the journalists. In order to provide true and timely information, the journalists have to move into or close to the places where wars and conflicts happen. They, therefore, put their lives at risk and try to fulfill their responsibilities. Different groups, organizations or countries in such zones have to be very careful about the rights of journalists and make sure they are not targeted. However, that does not seem to happen and many journalists lose their valuable lives every year. Moreover, because of the influence and approach of different extremist networks, the number of journalists losing their lives in the peaceful countries is also alarming.
Apart from the right to life, according to International law, journalists are entitled for certain other rights as well which all the governments and organizations around the world must respect. Journalists, according to the Declaration of Rights and Duties of the Journalists, must have free access to all information sources, and the right to freely inquire on all events conditioning public life. Therefore, secret of public or private affairs may be opposed only to journalists in exceptional cases and for clearly expressed motives. Therefore, any factor hindering the journalists from having access to all information sources must be considered illegal and should be eliminated.
Moreover, the journalists have the right to refuse subordination to anything contrary to the general policy of the information organ to which he collaborates such as it has been laid down by writing and incorporated in his contract of employment, as well as any subordination not clearly implicated by this general policy. And, the journalists cannot be compelled to perform a professional act or to express an opinion contrary to his convictions or his conscience.
Ill-fatedly, Afghanistan is also one of the countries that have not been giving enough heed to the rights of the journalists. The war and conflicts and the negligence of the relevant authorities have resulted in different sorts of discrimination against the journalists in the county. Afghan government and different other organizations and groups must make sure that they strive to protect the rights of the journalists as they are not a party to the conflict and do not serve anyone’s purpose.