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Law on Access to Information: Authorities deny cooperating with media

By Safiullah Amani-KABUL: Nai Supporting open Media in Afghanistan, a watchdog, on Monday expressed concerns over the authorities cold-shoulder response to the media-persons when approached for information of public interest.

Chief of the Nai said that despite approval of the Access to Information Law, the officials were using delaying tactics to avoid journalists.

Sediqullah Tawhidi claimed that government was often denying sharing information with media and sometimes give contrasting account of the events embedded in inaccurate information.

He said that issue has created challenges for the newsmen. “Journalists do not get the required information from the governmental institutions. Authorities mostly avoid media-persons when asked for interviews or comments. This issue has become an order of the day now, since March 21,” he lamented.

Nai demanded of President Ashraf Ghani to resolve the problem and direct the relevant authorities to cooperate with media. The watchdog also asked Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah to take up the issue in the coming meeting of the Council of Ministers.

Tawhidi urged the Cabinet to issue directives so the relevant authorities would implement the law on information in letter and spirit.

“If the government does not implement the law then its credibility will be brought under the question,” he said.

Increasing cases of violence against the country’s journalists was another challenge pointed out by the Nai’s chief.

Last month in a press conference, Sediqullah Tawhidi said that totally 105 violence cases against journalists were registered since May 2014.

According to the data obtained from Nai, 78 cases of violence has been recorded against journalists from May 2013 to May 2014.

Nai in its survey said that 74.8 percent of journalists believe that violence increased against media-persons and 77.7 percent were of the view that violence decreased in the past 12 months.

At least 29 percent of reporters complained of physical violence, 47.5 percent complained of mental violence and 18.5 percent were concerned about violation of their rights throughout the country.

The respondents believed that 47.8 percent of violence cases have been committed by state actors, 12.8 percent by their respective media organizations,18.8 percent by the Taliban and 20.8 percent by others.

According to Tawhidi still 50 percent of violence cases are not reported to the related organizations due to poor and complicated procedures.

He said that Ashiqullah Wafa, a member of the Wolesi Jirga, has threatened director of the Tanwir Media Group of dire consequences in Baghlan on May 26.

Director of the Tanwir Media Group, Shir Mohammad Jahesh, in the same press conference said the MP threatened him for broadcasting a news transfer of a senior security official.

He asked the Wolesi Jirga to take notice of the issue as the parliamentarians are the custodians of the Constitution and should not let their colleagues to violate laws.

However, Ashiqullah Wafa he rejected the allegations and said that he never threatened Jahesh. He said that Jahesh was not telling the truth. “All of his press briefings were aimed at character assassination of the lawmakers,” he claimed.

He said that Jahesh wanted to submit an application for asylum as one of the foreign embassies in the country. Though, he did not provide further details in this regard, but said that the director of the private media group wanted to strengthen his case through such allegations.

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