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Protect Afghan journalists: SAMDEN urges UN, media groups, govts

Protect Afghan journalists: SAMDEN urges UN, media groups, govts

New Delhi – The United Nations, governments and media organizations across the world are being urged to ensure the protection of local media professionals, foreign correspondents, and creative artists, especially women, in Afghanistan.

The South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN) today said that such protection must extend to both online and offline spaces and include independent publishers, broadcast houses as well as web and citizen journalists.

While the news conference by the Taliban leadership was rare, SAMDEN added, it also emphasized that everything depended on the Talban’s delivery of its public assurances. It pointed out that there had been chilling accounts of Taliban cadres allegedly entering the homes of journalists and it remained deeply concerned about the safety and security of media professionals in Afghanistan, especially women journalists.

The Network noted a recent report which quoted one of the country’s top independent broadcasters as describing the situation as “scary (and) highly uncertain” with deep concerns on future restrictions on reporting and how best to protect journalists.

“The past 20 years showed the emergence of thriving Afghan media holding the powerful to account. The women and men who ran those enterprises are independent and courageous. Their media organisations were supported by donor programmes. The countries that supported these programmes now have the moral obligation to ensure the safety and security of those brave Afghans, and they must be in the lists of individuals eligible for emergency visas, should they wish to leave Afghanistan,” SAMDEN said.

SAMDEN also added that countries of South Asia, which are closer to Afghanistan and are committed to freedom of expression and opinion, could consider starting programmes to provide sanctuary to Afghan media professionals.

“The Taliban take-over and the collapse of the previous government, should not disrupt the free flow of news and information, and the practice of journalism. Media professionals, creative artistes in theatre and the arts, need the space for free expression. They must be able to do their work without fear, threat or intimidation,” it said.

SAMDEN, a group of more than 60 journalists from South Asia that is anchored in the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) seeks to support media workers by helping them work securely, monitoring intimidation and attacks against freedom of expression, and pressing for greater openness and accountability.

SAMDEN co-conveners include Sanjoy Hazarika, journalist, commentator and irector of CHRI; Kanak Mani Dixit, founding editor, Himal South Asian; Mahfuz Anam, Editor, The Daily Star, Dhaka; Salil Tripathi, Chair, PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee; Beena Sarwar, Boston-based journalist, film maker and media teacher; and Kalpana Sharma, senior journalist and author.

For further information, contact:

Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director, CHRI

sanjoy@humanrightsinitiative.org

Aditya Sharma, Media and Advocacy, CHRI

aditya@humanrightsinitiative.org

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