Afghan Newspapers Form Association
The Afghanistan Newspaper Association announced its creation with the presence of nine newspapers and a weekly. Officials in the print media said that the purpose of the association was to strengthen freedom of expression, protect and defend the rights of newspapers, and ensure access to information. Officials believe that the establishment of this association is an attempt to develop professional journalism in the country, in addition to protecting freedom of expression. Media sponsors also called for the establishment of this association and called on the government to support the media, especially the print media. According to officials in these institutions, the Afghanistan Newspaper Association could be effective in combating corruption, ensuring good governance and strengthening the republican system.
Some print media outlets set up an “Afghanistan Newspaper Association” in Kabul on Wednesday, December 30. These include 8 Subh, Etilaat Roz, Arman Milli, Subh Kabul, Our Afghanistan, Rah Madaniat, MAndagar, Economy and Development, Outlook and Nimrokh Weekly. Mir Haidar Motahar, the president of the association, stated that the purpose behind creating it was to solve the challenges facing newspapers and improve the activity of the print media. He cited the Ministry of Finance’s violation of the law as an example, saying that although the print media is exempt from paying taxes, the Ministry of Finance still collects taxes from the print media in violation of the law. According to Mr. Motahar, despite this challenge, newspapers have preferred to pay taxes in order to prevent stoppages in their work. The head of the Afghan Newspapers Association said that as soon as the association started working, efforts would be made to resolve the issue and exempt the print media from paying taxes. Mir Haidar Motahar also asked other print media organizations to join this association.
Mujib Mehrdad, the managing director of 8 Subh, also called the establishment of the Afghanistan Newspaper Association timely and said that since the newspapers face various problems in the country, the establishment of this association was one of the needs of the hour. He said that the association, along with other organizations, will work to strengthen freedom of expression and solve the problems of newspapers and journalists. The editor-in-chief of 8 Subh also added that newspapers sometimes faced pressure while publishing reports, and that the Afghanistan Newspaper Association was trying to address the threats posed to the print media. Mr. Mehrdad referred to freedom of expression as the most important achievement of the government in the last two decades. According to him, a number of media activists had upheld this freedom at the cost of their lives, and the association now sought to strengthen it.
Zaki Daryabi, the managing director of the newspaper Elitaat Roz, said at the association’s opening program that the most important achievement of the Afghan people was the media and that these achievements should not be given up. He called the announcement of the association a window of hope and said that this voice could not be silenced. Mr. Daryabi stated that the purpose of establishing this association was to support freedom of expression, the growth of the journalist profession and to stand against any kind of external pressure. “Apart from protecting freedom of expression and resolving legal challenges, we are trying to develop and train new and professional journalists with the support of each other,” said the editor-in-chief of Etilaat Roz.
Media-supporting agencies also welcomed the establishment of the Afghanistan Newspaper Association. Sidiqullah Tawhidi, the head of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ litigation committee, said at the association’s opening meeting that there was a serious need to establish such an association in the current situation. “Such associations need to be created to defend rights of our professional peers,” he added. “Without associations and unions, fundamental rights cannot be defended.” Mr. Tawhidi expressed hope that with the establishment of this association, the work of journalism would improve and the activity of the print media would increase. He called on other newspapers to become members as well, and expressed hope that the government would also support the country’s newspapers.
Ainuddin Bahadury, head of the Information Access Commission, described the creation of the association as a “valuable step” in the current situation. In a situation where journalists and the media are under threat like never before, he said, media solidarity was crucial and could play an important role in reducing threats. He also said that the Information Access Commission had always suffered from the lack of specialized institutions in promoting the culture of access to information, and the absence of such an association was sorely felt. Mr. Bahadury called the Afghanistan Newspaper Association “an arm of the Information Access Commission” and said it could play a key role in large-scale structures where large sums of money are spent inefficiently. According to him, the Afghanistan Newspaper Association could be effective in fighting corruption, ensuring good governance and strengthening the republican system.
The Afghanistan Newspaper Association announced that the media was facing a wave of security threats in recent days. According to the latest findings of Reporters without Borders, Afghanistan is the most insecure place for journalists, and at least five journalists lost their lives in the past month alone.