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Journalism is a Risky Business in Afghanistan

Afghan journalists are becoming increasingly bold about reporting on serious problems facing their society -- the drug mafia, warlordism, and corrupt police or government officials. But the more these daring investigative journalists reveal about deeply-rooted problems in Afghan society, the more dangerous their jobs have become.

Young Afghan journalist Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh has been sentenced to death for distributing articles, which humiliate Islam

Young Afghan journalist Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh has been sentenced to death for distributing articles, which "humiliate" Islam

Last year, over 50 cases of violence against writers were reported from Afghanistan.

Intimidation of reporters and death threats against them and their families have become commonplace -- not just from Taliban militants, but also from warlords and drug barons.

Even government officials and police, who do not want the media spotlight cast upon their activities, have proved to be bothersome.

“There are lots of obstacles in the way to find facts,” says Haroon Najafizada from the BBC's Persian service. “Sources are not available; they are not ready to provide documents and information. There are threats from the warlords who do not like you to report on them and threats from government officials who do not recognize freedom of speech as they claim and there are also threats from the Taliban.”

Such factors have led to self-censorship, forcing journalists in Afghanistan at times not to cover issues to do with Islam and religion.

Death sentence for “humiliating” Islam

Recently a young journalism student, Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, was sentenced to death for blasphemy after allegedly distributing an article discussing why Muslim women cannot have more than one husband.

Judges in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif accused the 23-year-old Kaambakhsh of humiliating Islam by giving copies of the article to his fellow students.

His execution has been postponed because of pressure from the West.

Media explosion brings more risks

After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the country saw a proliferation of all types of media -- radio, television, print and internet sites -- but, ironically, alongside this media explosion, threats against journalists have increased.

There are at least 14 private television stations in Afghanistan, half of which are owned by warlords. Massoud Qiam of Tolo TV says the country offers immense scope but there are certain no-go areas.

“Afghanistan is a country full of stories for journalists. But it’s very difficult to work on controversial stories like corruption or smuggling. Getting access to information is very difficult. There are lots of threats from the government side.”

One of the most dangerous places for journalists

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places to work as a journalist. Last year, it chronicled over 50 cases of violence against journalists -- including nine deaths.

Journalists in Afghanistan believe President Hamid Karzai's government, instead of understanding the difficulties they face in the line of duty, has tried to impose more controls on the news media.

Parliament is now considering amendments that could undo many of the gains made since the fall of the Taliban.

  • Date 16.10.2008
  • Author Murali Krishnan 16/10/08
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/Lrvm
  • Date 16.10.2008
  • Author Murali Krishnan 16/10/08
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/Lrvm