UNESCO and UNAMA: Press freedom must be respected in Afghanistan
World Press Freedom Day was celebrated in Afghanistan to further support the still fragile state of freedom of expression in the country. To mark the day, UNESCO, in close collaboration with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the Afghan government, civil society and journalists, organized a day-long gathering. While acknowledging the efforts made so far in the media sector, the participants called for further efforts to respect press freedom in Afghanistan.
Afghan journalists are routinely confronted with problems that erode press freedom. Threats, intimidation, and arrests continue to endanger journalists and other media personnel. Speaking at the meeting, the Afghan Minister of Information and Culture, Abdul Karim Khuram, admitted the obstacles to be tackled for press freedom to be fully realised. He thanked the international community, and namely UNESCO, for supporting the Afghan government in establishing the foundations of freedom of expression in the country.
Shigeru Aoyagi, Director of UNESCO's Kabul Office, delivered the message of Director-General of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, on the occasion of this important international day. "Media functions as a vehicle for the flow of a plurality of viewpoints and a multiplicity of voices, thus allowing the exercise of citizenship, such as participation, criticism and voting. Informed citizens can better and more actively participate in their societies' decision making processes," said Aoyagi.
Shigeru Aoyagi and Alim Seddiqi, UNAMA Spokesperson, also participated in a press conference and answered questions regarding the freedom of the press and the media sector in Afghanistan.
UNESCO and UNAMA urged Afghanistan's government, electoral candidates, media organisations and citizens to join together to protect press freedom and to swiftly put into force the Kabul Declaration on "Freedom of Expression in Afghanistan". Noting that the safety of journalists is central to their ability to report openly, the two Organizations encouraged the efforts by the Afghan government to protect and support journalists during the election period.
The World Press Freedom Day event concluded with a working group discussion where attendees analysed the current situation of media, achievements and challenges, and provided further suggestions to strengthen the sector in the future. They also discussed the role of media for enhancing dialogue as a tool for empowering citizens.