Ongoing fight for press freedom in Afghanistan - Hindustan Times

Ongoing fight for press freedom in Afghanistan

ByKhushnood Nabizada
Jun 17, 2024 03:57 PM IST

This article is authored by Khushnood Nabizada, founder and owner, Khaama Press, Afghanistan.

In the intricate tapestry of Afghan journalism, February stands out as a month marked by significant challenges the independent media in Afghanistan. Since the political upheaval in August 2021, Khaama Press of which I am owner and founder has navigated formidable trials that mirror the extensive struggles faced by the Afghan populace. These challenges are particularly acute in the context of severe restrictions on women's rights to work and education, showcasing the broader adversities engulfing our nation.

Protesting women from Afghanistan (REUTERS)
Protesting women from Afghanistan (REUTERS)

February was a trying period for those at the forefront of independent journalism in Afghanistan. A suicide bomber targeted the building that houses Khaama Press's office, claiming the life of a security guard. This was an assault on the principles of free speech and press freedom, deeply affecting our staff and prompting significant operational changes, including the departure of valued team members seeking safety elsewhere.

In a similarly harrowing episode on February 1, 2021, a roadside bomb targeted my vehicle as I journeyed to work. By a stroke of fortune, those in the car survived, yet the incident left lasting scars on our psyche, vividly illustrating the perilous landscape within which Afghan journalists operate. This relentless threat to freedom of expression underscores the grim reality of our profession in Afghanistan.

The recent detention of Mansoor Nekmal, our esteemed editor-in-chief, on February 17, 2024, further illuminated the precarious state of press freedom in the country. Following a report on the conditions facing Afghan women, Nekmal was accused of contravening Islamic and Sharia laws based on the visual presentation of women. His subsequent detention for 24 hours highlighted the ongoing struggle against censorship and the suppression of dissenting voices.

The collective outcry and advocacy for Mr. Nekmal's release, fuelled by extensive coverage in the local media and vigorous campaigning by independent journalists and social media activists, underscored the potent role of journalism in advocating for justice and accountability. This united front not only highlighted the legal irregularities in Nekmal's detention but also demonstrated the efficacy of solidarity and public pressure in confronting and overcoming attempts to stifle press freedom.

The state of press freedom in Afghanistan continues to be dire. Reports from international organisations like Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch indicate an increasing number of attacks on journalists and media outlets. The Taliban's return to power has exacerbated the situation, with numerous journalists being detained, threatened, or forced into hiding. The restrictive environment has led to a significant decline in independent journalism, making the work of Khaama Press all the more crucial.

Women journalists, in particular, face severe restrictions and threats. Many have been forced out of their jobs, and those who continue to work do so under constant fear of retribution. The new regime's policies have effectively silenced a significant portion of the media that once provided a platform for women's voices and issues.

The international community has expressed deep concern over the suppression of free speech in Afghanistan. Various human rights organisations have called for immediate action to protect journalists and uphold the principles of free expression. The United Nations and other global entities have been urged to intervene and ensure that the rights of journalists are preserved.

As we reflect on these trials, we view them not as setbacks but as milestones in our enduring quest for truth.

This article is authored by Khushnood Nabizada, founder and owner, Khaama Press, Afghanistan.

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