Kabul: At a time when the freedom of press is of utmost importance so that an independent media can help guide the peace process, there have been various threats to the media. However, the media community has come forward to take a stance and asked the warring factions- the Afghan government and the Taliban- to not drag it into an unnecessary battle.
On Wednesday, Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan-Nai said in a statement that it was shocked by the simultaneous warnings from the Taliban and the National Directorate of Security (NDS) to the media; while the Free Speech Hub, a journalist-centric non-profit institution serving Afghan journalists, said it was concerned over recent threatening remarks by different warring parties and calling on all sides to respect and protect freedom of press.
Meanwhile, Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) also condemned the Taliban spokesman’s statement and considered it as a threat to journalists and the media. AJSC also called on the National Security Directorate to formally clarify their position about the allegations made about the NDS Director.
The remarks come after Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, wrote in a series of tweets on Wednesday, that some media outlets had been propagandizing the issue against Taliban, had one-sided publications and that there would be dire consequences, if it continues. While Aref Rahmani, a member of the House of Representatives, wrote in a series of tweets that NDS chief Ahmad Zia Saraj said that the press, politicians and experts must be aware of the Taliban’s psychological warfare, and those who communicate with and propagandize in their favor will be treated as terrorists.
Taking note of such comments by the two warring factions, Nai said, “The parties involved, regardless of national and international law, warn the media and violate these laws, and expression of such warnings can create fear and intimidation among the Afghan media community.” It added that the Taliban needs to know that Afghanistan’s media operate independently and in accordance with the country’s applicable media law. No force can use the Afghan media as an intelligence tool while it told the NDS chief that restricting the media is not in the interest of the peace process.
Nai called on the Afghan government to provide reassurance to the media in such a situation so that the media can provide good information in this sensitive situation.
Meanwhile, AJSC also said that threats are not the way forward. “According to Article 34 of the Constitution, freedom of expression is inviolable, and according to Article 6 of the Media Law, journalists are legally protected in their professional activities related to the publication of reports and criticism. If there is a violation or misconduct by the media, there are legal channels to address it. On the other hand, according to the Doha resolution, the Taliban must be committed to protecting the fundamental rights of citizens, of which freedom of expression is one example,” AJSC said.
The fact that both sides involved in the conflict accuse the media of violating the principle of impartiality also shows that the media is not affiliated with any party, it added.
AJSC also called on the United Nations to create a monitoring scheme that would ensure protection of press freedom during the peace process.