KABUL: The Afghan government must respect, protect and fulfil the right to information, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
In Afghanistan, 30 different media organizations have called on the government to effectively implement the Afghan Access to Information Law, including providing information on key human rights issues.
“Afghanistan’s journalists are among the bravest in the world. Working in some of the most difficult conditions, they have faced threats, intimidation and violence for the work they do. The government must create an enabling environment, where they can carry their work freely and without fear,” said Omar Waraich, Deputy South Asia Director at Amnesty International.
“The government has a responsibility to not just protect journalists but provide access to information in line with Afghan laws and the country’s international obligations on the right to freedom of expression.”
In a joint statement, the 30 Afghan media organizations said they were being denied access to information from several government departments, including the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s Office, the National Directorate for Security intelligence agency, the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Afghanistan and the Ministry of Defence.
The government must ensure people can access all the information necessary to realize their human rights and hold the authorities accountable for their actions in the spirit of transparency, Omar Waraich said.
The journalists said they were being denied information on a series of cases involving corruption and human rights violations. These included night-time “search operations” by Afghan security forces that have caused civilian casualties, allegations of sexual abuse by government officials, and the abduction of two human rights defenders who exposed an alleged paedophile ring.
“Afghanistan has a strong law on access to information, but it is not being implemented properly. Journalists in Afghanistan have a right to access information held by public bodies and it is the right of the general public to receive information through them,” said Omar Waraich.
“The government must ensure people can access all the information necessary to realize their human rights and hold the authorities accountable for their actions in the spirit of transparency.”
In the pursuit of information from public bodies, journalists must not be intimidated, threatened or harmed in any other way. In the past, there have been cases where journalists in Afghanistan have been subject to abuse and even beaten by government officials for doing their jobs.
In 2019, according to the monitoring group Nai, ten journalists and media workers were killed in Afghanistan by armed groups, including the Taliban. In June 2019, the Taliban threatened to treat Afghan journalists as a military target in brazen violation of the laws of war.