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Media outlets accused Govt. of shortcomings in providing access to information

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KABUL: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Tuesday supported a protest by 30 Afghan media outlets about the government’s failure to apply the law on access to state-held information, which was drafted with RSF’s help. The Afghan authorities must fully implement this law, RSF said.

“We are deeply concerned about the deterioration in access to government-related information in Afghanistan,” the 30 independent Afghan media outlets said in a joint statement issued at a press conference in Kabul today.

“All government institutions have shortcomings when it comes to providing access to information, but the worst ones are: the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s Office, the National Directorate of Security, the office of the president and its procurement unit, the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank and the Ministry of Defence,” the statement said.

“Given the country’s current situation, in particular, the disputed results of the last presidential election in 2019 and the Taliban-imposed war, the Afghan government’s failure to apply the law on access to state-held information is unacceptable,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Afghanistan desk. “It is the state’s job to ensure that journalists have unrestricted access to information.”

The 30 media outlets include four privately-owned national TV channels, Tolo News (a 2005 RSF Press Freedom laureate and recipient of the 2016 City of Paris Medal for Information Heroes), TV1, Ariana News and Shamshad; the newspapers 8 Sobh (a 2012 RSF Press Freedom laureate), Etilaatroz and Mandegar; the radio stations Killde and Salam Watandar; and local broadcasters Hewad TV (in the southern province of Kandahar), Radio Azad in the northern province of Balkh and Asr TV in the western province of Herat.

European Union in Afghanistan in a tweet said; Important discussion on Access to Information Law –it must be implemented in full. Free flow of information is crucial for any democracy &progressive society. EU supports transparency and accountability in Afghanistan.  All must partake to ensure continued media freedom to report in Afghanistan.

“Access to government information is a right of the Afghan people. Afghanistan has one of the best laws in the world on A21 but more needs to be done to ensure implementation. The UK supports the brave and committed journalists fighting to uphold this right,’ UK embassy in Kabul said in a tweet message.

Open and healthy societies promote access to information for citizens, UNAMA in Afghanistan said, adding “Afghanistan has the right to know and it’s vital for accountability, fighting corruption, improving government performances, efficiency, encouraging investment and empowering citizens in public life.”

French embassy in Kabul in a tweet said, “France stands by Afghan journalists, who demonstrate on a daily basis courage, professionalism and commitment to the information of people and the world, often in difficult circumstances.”

A strong democracy needs free access to information and independence of the media, the tweet added.

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