Media Union Emerges From Mazar Project

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IWPR cited as playing major role in the creation of new body representing journalists in the Balkh region. By IWPR - Afghanistan 14 Apr 11 Journalists in Balkh province have founded a new media support group under the auspices of IWPR and based in their Mazar-e-Sharif offices.

Known as The House of Reporters, the union was established two weeks ago by journalists unhappy with the effectiveness of existing media associations. They say IWPR played a key role in their decision to take action.

Since it was founded in 2008, the IWPR office in Mazar-e-Sharif - as well as holding training workshops for journalists in the north of the country and offering free-of-charge high-speed internet - has provided local reporters with a space to meet and discuss media-related issues.

The House of Reporters is a new body which local journalists hope will help them more effectively organise, share experiences and work together.

“The Balkh reporters would not have been able to establish a union for themselves without the assistance and presence of IWPR,” said Samiullah Ghashtoon, a reporter for Radio Liberty in Balkh and a member of the leadership of the House of Reporters. “We founded this union of journalists in the meeting room of the IWPR office with the help of the organisation, which has provided us with all the technical facilities we needed to create it. At the moment, the IWPR office is our meeting hall.”

Kazem Haidari, a reporter for the AWA news agency and a member of the new body, said, “Without the assistance of IWPR, the reporters would have faced several problems. So we thank IWPR for its help in holding training workshops, providing free internet services, keeping its doors open for us all the time and for helping us, sincerely and honestly, in the creation of the union.”

Azim Azimi, director of the civil society and culture institution in Balkh province, said that ever since it was founded, the IWPR Mazar-e Sharif office had played a leading role in facilitating civil society activities.

“For instance, when we need to mobilise journalists or organise gatherings, we only need to inform this office and then, all the working reporters turn up,” he said.

The Mazar-e Sharif office has held more than 28 training workshops during the past two years, attracting over 200 media professionals from northern provinces including Balkh, Sheberghan, Fariab and Samangan.

More than 25 journalists use the IWPR office facilities every day, taking advantage of free internet access to file stories, networking and sharing experiences with each other.

The general director of the Balkh province information and culture department, Saleh Mohammad Khaliq, said the IWPR office had helped local journalists achieve international standards of reporting.

“I appreciate the effectiveness of this office in the north,” he said. “The activities of this office have really been positive for the journalists and the country.”

Enayat Najafizadah, a Balkh journalist who works for France Press and the New York Times – and who visits the IWPR centre on a daily basis - said, “I really owe IWPR for its services. If I had not used the workshops of this institute and had not learned international standards of journalism, these credible media outlets would never have employed me.”

Jawid Bakhtari, a reporter for privately-owned Salam Watandar radio, said, “On a daily basis, I spend more time in the IWPR office than in my own office, because most of my journalistic work is performed here. I use the stories published on the IWPR website to help complement my reports and then I use the high speed internet here.”

Sayed Arif Musawi, a reporter for Tolo TV, said, “IWPR started building the capacity of the journalists in Balkh province at a time when there were no other such programmes. Media outlets here view this office just like thirsty people long for water.”