Access to information essential for building peace in northeastern Afghanistan

Report
from UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
Published on 07 Sep 2017 View Original

KUNDUZ - During a series of UN-backed televised programmes in Afghanistan’s northeastern region, participants highlighted the importance of access to information as a necessary tool for fighting corruption, defending human rights and fostering peace.

Organized by the Kunduz regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the programmes were set up to bring panellists from civil society, provincial government and media outlets together to discuss a broad range of issues around access to information in the northeastern provinces of Kunduz, Takhar and Badakhshan.

Afghanistan has an Access to Information Law that guarantees every citizen the right to know what the government is doing, including on budget allocations for development projects and on other expenditures.

“While the law has been in place for some time, many are not aware of it,” said Muhsen Ahmadi, a journalist from Kunduz, in one of the debates. “Citizens and officials are in the dark about the existence of the law.”

Mr Ahmadi stressed that the law places an obligation on public authorities to disclose information pertaining to their work. However, he noted, requests for information from public authorities are difficult and sometimes dangerous undertakings.

Media watchdogs have documented how journalists in Afghanistan, including in the northeastern region, have been targeted with threats and violence in their pursuit to inform the public. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Afghanistan is among the 10 deadliest countries in the world to be a journalist, with 21 journalists killed in the first half of 2017 alone.

Panellists in all three broadcasts called for efforts to ensure the free flow of accurate information between the government, media outlets and citizens in the interest of building mutual trust, protecting human rights and fostering peace and stability in the restive region.

The discussions, which were broadcast to an audience estimated at one million people by partner television stations in Kunduz, Takhar and Badakhshan, are part of a series of UN-backed meetings and media broadcasts designed to raise public awareness about media freedoms and access to information. Similar events and broadcasts have taken place in other regions of the country.

In 2015, UNESCO adopted a resolution declaring 28 September the International Day for the Universal Access to Information. Access to information is bound with the right to seek and receive information, which is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression.

UNAMA has been supporting journalists’ forums to provide media workers with an opportunity to network, share experiences, promote media ethics and most importantly bring communities together through accurate news and reporting.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides 'good offices' among other key services. 'Good offices' are diplomatic steps that the UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.

UNAMA also promotes coherent development support by the international community; assists the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.