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Editorial: Tough times

Journalists in Afghanistan are going through most difficult time after fall of the Taliban’s regime as the number of groups opposing free media in the country had increased manifold. The work environment and security situation have created many hurdles before both male and female journalists. There has been sharp increase in the attacks against free and independent media. Despite deteriorated law and order situation and lack of job security, Afghan journalists have shown historical courage while defying the implicit and explicit threats posed by the anti-media elements in the country. Many journalists have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty to keep public well informed. Many of them were sole bread earners. Their sad demise had left their families in shock and financial crisis. They rendered these matchless sacrifices without expecting any medal or gratitude. Serving the nation through free flow of unbiased information was goal of their life. Access and dissemination of credible information is still key objective of the Afghan journalists.

However, inattention of the government towards problems of the media-persons has been a cause of disappointment and discouragement. The country’s journalist community has repeatedly urged all three pillars of the state–executive, legislature and judiciary–to bring reforms and ensure unrestricted access of news reports to information. The journalists have requested these three bodies times and again to ensure their safety and prosecute the cases of violence against journalists. Most of these cases are covered in dust. The victims do not know that when they would get justice. Justice has become a far cry, though the high-ranking former and serving authorities claimed to address the serious issue of violence against journalists.

Media is considered fourth pillar of the state in democratic countries as mass media play vital role in promoting democracy and national unity. Unfortunately, in our country free media is just a concept because the government kept itself busy in other issues, and turned a blind eye to the jump in cases of violence against newsmen and women.

According to a fresh report of the Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee, there had been 54 incidents of violence against journalists during the first half of 2016. The figures show a staggering 37 percent increase in the violence against journalists when compared to the same period last year.

The reports published by the journalist bodies in the past five years indicate that the relevant authorities have badly failed in ensuring safety of journalists and protecting rights of the news reporters and photojournalists and cameramen. Insecurity and cold shoulder response of the concerned organization is not only creating several and severe challenges for free media but it is also damaging the foundation of democracy. Therefore, the government should take the issue of violence against journalists serious. As a first step the authorities should process all the pending cases to provide justice to the victims. Secondly, laws should be drafted and approved to ensure job and personal security of media-persons. Third, the government shall provide security to private media organizations to ensure free flow of information.

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