The international community and UN issued a statement to express that as 3 May, World Press Freedom Day approaches, it is important to remind that it is the day to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, defend the media and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
The statement pointed out that media freedom and the number of media outlets in Afghanistan have seen a remarkable rise over the past 18 years which marks one of the “undoubted successes of post-2001 Afghanistan.”
The international community believes that the press is freer in Afghanistan as compared to many other countries in the region, giving due credit to brave Afghan journalists who “put themselves at risk to report the news and hold the powerful to account”.
The statement reassured everybody’s commitment to defending freedom of expression and media freedom in Afghanistan.
However it was also highlighted that journalists are still being threatened, attacked and killed simply for doing their job, and last year Afghanistan was the most dangerous country in the world to be a journalist with over 15 being killed.
“Our countries and organisations have supported Afghanistan’s development and institution building over the past 18 years. For us media freedom is a fundamental part of a functioning democracy. In Afghanistan these rights are new but in a short time the media has grown to be one of the most trusted institutions and an example to neighbouring countries. Successive governments have shown great commitment to press freedom and the legal framework underpinning it is strong. It is clear the Afghan people value the freedom to express themselves, debate the future of their country and make their voices heard”, said the statement.
The statement also appreciated the Afghan government for taking steps to address the safety and protection needs of Afghan journalists; a joint committee with the media monitors cases of violence. The international community urged the government to do all “in its power to protect journalists and ensure there is no impunity for attacks against them.” These attacks include those on journalists by security forces, or militia which must be stopped.
It was added that implementation of Afghanistan’s media freedom laws also requires significant and sustained effort -access to information is enshrined in law but not in practice.
Moreover, it was pointed out that women face huge challenges as journalists, especially outside the main cities – they often face discrimination both for being women and for being journalists. Despite the advances in women’s rights and empowerment, the number of female journalists remains low.
The international community thus paid tribute to those “trailblazing” women news anchors and reporters and restated its support for women’s full and meaningful participation in public life and their full enjoyment of all human rights.
Finally, the international community pledged to support Afghanistan’s journalists and defend press freedom. “It is not for the international community to lead the way, it is for the Afghan people to decide. We call on the Afghan people to make their voices heard and ensure the future of freedom of expression and the media in Afghanistan”, the statement expressed.