8 March 2013 – At a meeting held to discuss the challenges facing Afghan women journalists, the United Nations envoy for Afghanistan assured them of the world body’s continued support for the right of women to participate in two of the country’s key political processes – its upcoming presidential elections in 2014 and its ongoing peace and national reconciliation efforts.
Hailing from several media organizations and associations, the six journalists were meeting with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Jan Kubiš, to speak about the challenges they and their colleagues face in going about their work.
Three female journalists have been killed in the past seven years in Afghanistan and dozens have been intimidated to stop working, according to International Media Support (IMS), a non-governmental organization working to support local media in countries affected by armed conflict. The IMS also said “discriminatory contracting policies” in many of Afghanistan’s media organizations and “frequent sexual harassment” are also deterring women from working in the media.
The UN envoy took note of their concerns regarding the difficulties that women, especially journalists, face in taking part in their country’s political processes. He encouraged them to not be dissuaded by any obstacles, and to lobby far-sighted politicians to become greater advocates for women’s rights.
“This will give you (Afghan women) a broader constituency to make an impact rather than depending only on more (political) representation,” Mr. Kubiš said at the meeting, which took place in the capital, Kabul.
Afghanistan is due to hold a presidential election on 5 April next year, marking an end to the second term of the incumbent, President Hamid Karzai. The political transition coincides with a security transition currently underway, which is seeing the Afghan authorities take over responsibilities previously assumed by international allies.
As well, with the aim of bringing an end to the country’s conflict, Afghan authorities are engaged in a peace and reconciliation process, led by them and supported by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which Mr. Kubiš heads.
In his discussion with the reporters, the UN envoy also said it was important that women journalists provide more information to the general public on the importance of the role of women in elections and in the peace process.
Citing the UN Security Council’s recent renewal of UNAMA’s mandate, the Special Representative noted that the mandate speaks strongly on the issue of women’s rights, as well as broader human rights.
He mentioned that at the meeting at which the Council adopted the resolution renewing the mandate, several UN Member States took to the floor to stress the importance of protecting, defending and advocating for women’s rights.
Mr. Kubiš’ meeting with the women journalists came a day ahead of a special event co-organized by UNAMA to mark the contributions of prominent women leaders in Afghanistan. The event, which takes place today, Thursday, 28 March, consists of the presentation of awards recognizing those contributions, as well as an art exhibition and musical performances.
In its World Press Freedom Index 2013 released on 30 January, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based media rights watchdog, ranked Afghanistan 128th in its global index of 179 countries. Although the ranking showed a major achievement in promoting freedom of the press in Afghanistan in 2012, the Index noted that violence against journalists did not disappear completely and “the Government neglected to tackle the issue of impunity.”
Article 34 of the Afghan Constitution has guaranteed the freedom of expression by saying this is “inviolable.”