Journalists in Afghanistan's Northeast strategize on media’s role in advancing peace

from UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
Published on 20 Jul 2017 View Original

KUNDUZ - In the northeast region of Afghanistan, the UN is working on an initiative to leverage the power of local radio and television to build support among communities for reducing conflict, fighting corruption and advancing peace.

In an event this week, the Kunduz regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) brought senior journalists together from Kunduz and Takhar provinces to discuss ways to build stronger community ties in an area of the country where the conflict has taken an especially heavy toll on normal life.

The challenges the journalists face in Afghanistan’s northeast are similar to those in other areas of the country, with insecurity ranking at the top of the list along with the spread of misinformation.

Altogether, nine journalists, three of them women, attended the symposium, the first of four such meetings planned with media professionals in the northeastern provinces through the weeks ahead. The main aim of the gatherings is to discuss issues around local conflict, including corruption, and strategize on possible ways to mobilize communities toward peace.

The country’s northeastern provinces have suffered some of the deadliest fighting in Afghanistan during the past 10 years, leaving behind damaged infrastructure and displacing thousands of families.

UNAMA has been working with media not only in the country’s northeast, but also in other parts of Afghanistan, to build support for Afghan-led peace and reconciliation efforts. Since 2015, UNAMA has supported journalists’ forums to provide media workers an opportunity to network, share their experiences, and most importantly bring communities together through accurate news and reporting.

In addition to discussing the media’s role in bringing about peace, the journalists focused on the access to information law, its implementation in the northeastern provinces, and other issues affecting peace, including corruption and justice.

“Access to information is a challenge for journalists working with security and military organs, but it is a responsibility of government departments to provide the required information to journalists,” said Najibullah Nazari, head of a television outlet in Taloqan, the provincial capital of Takhar.

Ajmal Kakar, a Pajhwok reporter in Kunduz, said corruption and injustice are the main causes of instability and insecurity. “Corruption, especially, creates distance between the government and the people, and strengthens anti-government elements,” said Kakar.

The participants also discussed broader media issues in the northeastern provinces, and strategized on the use of radio and television as a platform for civic discussions to highlight women’s rights. According to those who participated in the meeting, before the collapse of Kunduz in late 2015, around 50 women worked as permanent and volunteer journalists and staff members with media outlets in the province, but due to insecurity and threats, that number has dwindled to 15.

Shaeesta Radio, a network dedicated to women’s issues, and Kaihan Radio, which broadcasts shows geared to young Afghans, were looted during the Taliban’s attack and takeover of Kunduz between 28 September and 13 October 2015, and their staff forced into hiding. But with assistance from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), damaged station equipment was replaced.

UNAMA has been supporting Kunduz radio and TV through a combination of technical assistance and outreach activities. Following the end of fighting in the city in October 2015, UNAMA supported the people of Kunduz by backing a series of public information programmes via national and provincial radio and television.

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 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.