New York, July 29, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Afghan government to allow privately owned Emroaz TV back on the air, after its owner said it was shut down under pressure from Iran. According to local and international media reports, the station went dark on Tuesday almost immediately after the station's owner, Member of Parliament Najib Kabuli, protested on-air the government’s order to shut the station down. In his address, Kabuli said the Ministry of Information had made a “one-sided decision” under Iran’s influence to silence Emroaz.
When we report on Afghanistan, it’s often about something horrific—a deadly explosion, a murder, a kidnapping. But when you ask many Afghan journalists about the biggest challenge they face daily, it’s not danger or harassment that they cite. Although Article 50 of the Afghanistan Constitution guarantees access to public information, journalists say that obtaining such information from the government is their greatest ongoing concern.
In an alert on Monday, we reported on an attack that left at least six women and children seriously injured at the home of local television journalist Zafarullah Bonari along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. A group of unidentified attackers threw grenades and opened fire on Bonari’s house. The information was scant when we first heard about the attack in a rushed e-mail message from a member of the Bajaur chapter of the Tribal Union of Journalists.
Last week, I attended an unusual event called the Courage Forum at which half a dozen speakers, from tightrope artist Philippe Petit and Sudanese rapper Emmanuel Jal to Virgin founder and chairman Richard Branson, talked about about overcoming fear.
Mujahid Kakar, head of news and current affairs for Afghanistan’s Moby Media Group, was at the United Nations on Monday to give a speech on World Press Freedom Day. He stopped by CPJ’s office afterward, and we talked for more than an hour about journalism in Afghanistan. Kakar, left, whose oversight includes the influential Tolo TV, made a string of important points concerning lapses in professionalism, the importance of international support, and the challenges that front-line journalists face from all sides. I’ll bullet-point some of them, and then quote Kakar about what he felt was the most important part of his message:
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.