Violence-ridden Afghanistan has not been a safe place for its citizens, least of all the media people. According to a media watchdog and open media supporting organization (NAI), there has been a 40 percent decrease in violence towards journalists and media outlets as some 115 cases of violence – including 10 murders – have been registered so far this year. These figures paint an improved picture for media persons in terms of their security. However, while operating in such a situation, the government institutions have failed to cooperate with these media people in providing them with information. A recent survey by the same organization shows that journalists are still struggling in accessing information of government institutions, especially security organs. NAI has interviewed over 250 journalists in 24 provinces, of which 50.8 percent have expressed disappointment with regard to the responsiveness of government spokesmen, whereas 47.6 percent of them were satisfied. Among other departments, the journalists mostly slammed the spokespersons of the ministries of defense and interior for not cooperating with them.
It cannot be disregarded that Afghanistan has made considerable progress since the Access to Information (ATI) Law was approved by President Ashraf Ghani in 2014. A case in point is Afghanistan securing the first place among 123 countries on right to information laws in 2018. However, it seems the Oversight Commission on Access to Information (OCAI) which was formed in October 2015 and tasked to oversee the ATI Law’s execution in the government machinery has failed to discharge its duty properly. This is while the Journalist Safety Committee had previously voiced concern over many organizations not providing information to Afghan masses, as well as media outlets. This is something that signifies that the ATI Law has still not been properly executed. It means the steps taken by the government so far are not adequate and it should further try its level best to put the journalists out their misery and provide them with the needed information. The right of access to information is essentially the lifeblood of an informed citizenry because otherwise, in the absence of information, people remain in dark and unaware regarding their government’s performance. Paying serious heed to this principle, the government should make the ministries of defense and interior comply with ATI by acting exemplary so that the rest of the government organs could follow suit. Given the status quo, the government still needs to take remedial measures in order to make the right of ATI institutionalized in our society and turn it into cultural value. As Afghanistan is a relatively nascent democracy, properly implementing the ATI law and upholding the tenets of open governance in order to enhance accountability would go a long way in the country’s development.