Media freedom and the number of media outlets in Afghanistan has seen a remarkable rise over the past 19 years. It is truly one of the undoubted successes of post-2001 Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the press is freer here than many other countries in the region and unrecognizable from the days of Taliban rule.
The brave Afghan journalists put themselves at risk to report the news and hold the powerful to account. Meanwhile they have even gone further and didn’t hesitate to keep disseminate the needed information to the people during the virus pandemic and increasing violence in different provinces of the country.
Freedom of expression and a free media are the lifeblood of any democracy and this progress should be celebrated as a source of great strength. The Afghan government time and again reiterated support to the free media activities and even have codified many laws and regulations in previous years to ease their works.
Recently, a number of media raised concerns over government’s intention to bring amendment to the media law which was approved in 2006 and has 54 articles. According to media, the new amendments have been approved by the cabinet and the draft is set to be sent to the parliament for ratification.
An open letter of the media to the president mentions that the proposed amendments are in contravention of Articles 7, 34, 120 and 122 of Afghanistan’s Constitution.
The letter by the Afghan media says that many of the amended articles of the mass media law are in contravention of article 19 of the international declaration on human rights that guarantees the freedom of speech without restrictions.
But the Afghan government says that has no intention of imposing restrictions on media in the country. “The government never had the intention to impose restrictions on media outlets, no efforts so far have been made to impose restrictions,” said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for president Ashraf Ghani.
Sediqqi also tweeted: “The president saw the letter of media expressing their concern over proposed amendments, which were not finalized, to our mass media law, and instructed me and Waheed Omer to open a discussion with the media. The government is strongly committed to our free media and will remain so.”
The Afghan constitutions has guaranteed free activities of media in the country. According to article 34 of the constitution, “freedom of expression shall be inviolable” and “every Afghan shall have the right to express thoughts through speech, writing, illustrations as well as other means in accordance with provisions of this constitution.” It also says that “every Afghan shall have the right, according to provisions of law, to print and publish on subjects without prior submission to state authorities.”
The Afghan government is determined to freedom of expression and media in the country and considers media activities as of its greatest achievements in the last two decades. Despite many challenges, Afghans and the Afghan government are proud of the achievements of their press. Many other countries in the region can learn from the commitment of government and the strength shown to open itself to challenge. The physical and moral courage of Afghan journalists is indeed an example to the world of the importance of the press.