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Editorial: Free media

Media have a great role in development of the country to play. As a watchdog, media should not only focus on political and security issues but also social issues. Both print and electronic media shall not turn a blind eye to social issues such as violence against women, social injustice, street harassment, child labor, begging, robbery, kidnappings, illiteracy, road accidents, human trafficking, and drugs smuggling. In countries where democracy is newborn media outlets have to play greater role in strengthening the democracy while guiding the government in right direction through healthy criticism and balanced reporting. That’s why media is considered fourth pillar of the state in democratic countries.

As democracy in the country is immature such is media especially the electronic media which saw a boom after fall of the Taliban regime.  Therefore, journalists in the country made many mistakes. It is also true that journalists in the country had paid heavy price to defend their rights and democratic values. But there is no denying that social issues have received little space and time than political news. Without challenging the obsolete social norms, we cannot dream of a developed and stable Afghanistan. Society is the foundation of any state. If the foundation is rusted, the country cannot accelerate the growth speed but would remain caught in different crisis.

Therefore, media has to fight the social evils as well. The deputy minister of information and culture, Sayeda Mojgan Mustafavi, also asked media to fulfill its legal and national obligations by paying due attention to public health and social safety. The deputy minister is right that media should abide by the law and fulfill its responsibilities. However, it is also true that the government is not serious about freedom of speech and protection of journalists’ rights. The high-ups criticize media on different pretexts when newspapers and news channels point out to gray areas and failures of the government.

As a matter of fact the relevant authorities know that many media organizations are facing financial and security challenges but yet they do not take interest in resolving these problems. Scores of journalists were killed, injured, tortured, harassed and threatened in the past few years. Spokesman at government institutions did not provide information to journalists. Sometimes they do not comment when approached by news reporters, and mostly they do not answer phone calls.

In such situation it becomes extremely difficult for media-persons to perform their duties and serve public. Creating challenges for media will harm the national interests and the government. For positive change in the society, the relevant authorities should support print and electronic media at every level.

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