MONTREAL, June 11 /CNW Telbec/ -
Reporters Without Borders
HE Hamid Karzai President of the Republic
Kabul - Afghanistan
Paris, 11 June 2008
Dear Mr. President,
Reporters Without Borders urges you, on the eve of tomorrow's conference
in Paris on Afghanistan's development and reconstruction, to give a clear
undertaking that your government will protect press freedom, which is
currently under so much threat in your country.
Press freedom has, it is true, been one of the achievements of
reconstruction in the almost seven years since the fall of the Taliban
regime. Afghanistan has around 300 newspapers, 14 of them dailies, more
than 10 privately-owned TV and radio stations and seven news agencies.
Afghanistan has never had so many news media and journalists. But
violence against the press is growing steadily. In the past 12 months,
Reporters Without Borders has registered no fewer that 18 physical
attacks on journalists, 23 death threats, 14 arrests and four abductions.
Dozens of other journalists have been forced to resign because of outside
We expect you to give an undertaking to the international community in
Paris tomorrow that you will deal with the most important press freedom
violations. If this is not done, your government risks to lose the trust
of Afghan journalists and the support of international public opinion and
this would necessarily complicate matters for the countries, including
those of the European Union, that are supporting your administration
financially, militarily and politically.
You must of course be aware, Mr. President, of the case of the young
journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, which has shocked the entire world.
The death sentence passed on him by a court in Mazar-i-Sharif triggered a
wave of legitimate outrage. More than a million people have already
signed a petition launched by the British newspaper The Independent
calling for his release. The recent revelation that he was tortured by
members of the security services casts doubt on your government's ability
to respect the relevant international standards.
How, Mr. President, can you ask for greater support from western
countries when, at the same time, judges, prosecutors, political leaders
and some clerics are targeting Afghan journalists with such virulence in
your country? Kambakhsh's release and the quashing of his death sentence
would be a positive signal in an otherwise sombre panorama.
The enduring impunity in many cases of violence against Afghan
journalists is unacceptable. The inability of the police and judicial
authorities to arrest the murderers of Peace Radio director Zakia Zaki
undermines your international commitments on the rule of law. This
impunity has paved the way for a new wave of violence against women
journalists. Since Zaki's murder a year ago, dozens of Afghan women
journalists have been attacked, threatened or reduced to silence. Only a
clear determination on your part to solve these cases could put an end to
these attacks. In the absence of action, the soothing words of your
ministers lose all credibility.
At least 10 women journalists have been attacked in Herat province alone
in recent months. "The lack of action on the part of the authorities is a
major factor in the increase in these attacks," says Rahimullah Samandar,
the head of the Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA).
Anonymous callers threatened to kill three women journalists at the start
of this year in Mazar-i-Sharif. One caller said: "Why do you work with
the Americans? Take care, you are going to be killed." Another said: "If
you continue to show yourself on television, your sister, your mother and
other members of your family could be kidnapped." Despite their repeated
requests, these journalists were not given police protection.
Reporters Without Borders has received damning accounts about the
inability of the authorities to protect journalists in cities such as
Herat, in western Afghanistan. Khadijeh Ahadi, the presenter of a very
popular programme on radio Faryad was forced to leave the city after
receiving death threats. In her programme, she had allowed members of the
public to talk on the air about their everyday life.
Harassment forced Hasam Shams to resign as head of the state TV
television's branch in Herat. "The renaissance of the media was carried
out with the participation of young journalists, but the enemies of press
freedom, especially men armed by the former warlords, do not tolerate the
emergence of these media and have the power to prevent us from working,"
Explaining the difference in press freedom between Kabul and the
provinces, TKG press group director Najiba Ayubi says: "The presence of
the international community and foreign journalists in the capital forces
the government to tolerate press freedom, even if it does not really like
it," she says. "But officials do what they want in the provinces. As long
as men who are hostile to free expression have guns and government
support, they will be no hope for journalists."
When questioned by Reporters Without Borders, many Afghan journalists are
extremely critical of your government's defence of their freedom. "The
government has lost its honour by proving itself incapable of protecting
free expression," says Saad Mohseni, the head of privately-owned Tolo TV,
who is often harassed by the judicial and religious authorities.
As you must be aware, Mr. President, the attacks concentrate above all on
independent news media that are often critical of the national and local
Your government is obviously not responsible for the most serious
violations. This week's murder of Abdul Samad Rohani, a reporter for the
BBC and the news agency Pajhwok in the southern province of Helmand, by a
Taliban commander's men, again highlighted the barbarity of the rebels.
Sayed Agha and Adjmal Nasqhbandi, the driver and guide of Italian
reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo, were killed by Taliban in the same
province last year.
Finally, we hope that Afghan diplomats will intercede on behalf of
Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, the editor of the monthly Haqoq-e-Zan (Women's
Rights), whose situation in Iran continues to be fraught. Although
released on bail on 29 May after 86 days in an intelligence ministry
prison in the city of Qom, 150 km southwest of Tehran, he is still
harassed in Iran and Afghanistan.
Never in the history of Afghanistan has the population had so much access
to news and information produced by Afghans for Afghans. The most popular
news media used to be foreign ones such as the BBC and VOA. Today, the
country's independent media have proved to be a tremendous success with
Afghans, especially the younger ones. But it is these media that are the
targets of attacks, pressure and legal and religious harassment, which
too often comes from the ranks of your supporters.
Mr. President, we are confident that you will be receptive to our request
and that you will do your best to put an end to this situation.
For further information:
For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive director,
Reporters without borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, firstname.lastname@example.org