Ahead of growing challenges including targeted killing against journalists, a number of media organizations founded union of newspapers in Kabul on Wednesday, December 30.
Afghanistan Union of Newspapers has been founded, as its founding members say, to protect freedom of expression and journalists’ rights in Afghanistan.
Haidar Mutahar, who is editor-in-chief of Daily Arman-e-Milli, was elected as the head of Afghanistan Union of Newspapers and Mujib Mehrdad, editor-in-chief of Daily Hasht-e-Sub was chosen as deputy dead of the Union.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Union, Mr. Mutahar said Afghan Union of Newspapers was founded to address challenges Afghan print media are facing. The Union is committed to work for improvement of media work in the country, he said.
Mr. Mutahar said print media are exempted from tax as stipulated in Afghanistan’s Mass Media Law but the Ministry of Finance regularly collects tax from newspapers and other print outlets. The Union, as he noted, will follow the issue with the relevant authorities to implement this provision of the Law.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Zaki Daryabi said the Union has been founded to protect freedom of expression in Afghanistan. Mr. Daryabi noted that the Union will protect all rights of journalists and print media and promote freedom of expression.
Mr. Daryabi said that the Union, as part of its long-term mandate, will work on capacity building in area of journalism to promote professional journalism in the country.
Describing it as a “big step” forward, Sediqullah Tawhidi, Executive Director of the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee, said that the media would be able to defend their legal rights without having a union.
He called on the government to support Afghanistan Union of Newspapers and the country’s print media without exerting pressure or influence. Mr. Tawhidi noted that the government should take investigative reports and analytic op-eds published on the media seriously and act for resolving the issues, instead of pressuring the media outlets and journalists.
Aynuddin Bahaduri, head of Access to Information Commission, was also present on the occasion. Describing it as “historic and hopeful” step, he the Union will play a vital role in the fight against corruption and promoting good governance.
Mujib Mehrdad, the deputy head of Afghanistan Union of Newspapers, said the Union will work hard to preserve freedom of expression and create a better working environment for journalists.
Mr. Mutahar called on media workers get membership of the Union and stay alarm against what he described as uncertain future of freedom of expression, civil liberty and human rights. He urged media workers and journalists to raise their concerns in regard to uncertain future of media with the government peace delegation.
Afghanistan is an insecure country for journalists. Just over last two months, five journalists were killed in different parts of the country.
Afghanistan Union of Newspapers is founded at a time when the Afghan government and the Taliban are negotiating a power-sharing peace deal in Doha, capital of Qatar.
Under the Taliban rule (1996-2001), media were banned.
Zaki Daryabi, editor-in-chief of the Daily Etilaat-e-Roz, Mujib Mehrdad, editor-in-chief of the Daily Hasht-e-Subh, editor-in-chief of Tawsea and Iqtisad paper, Reza Howaida, publisher of the Daily Afghanistan-e-Ma, Fatima Roshanian, editor-in-chief of Nimrokh Weekly, Sediqullah Tawhidi, executive director of Afghan journalists safety committee, Sayed Asghar Ishraq, editor-in-chief of Rahe Madanyat daily newspaper; Nazari Paryani, editor-in-chief of the Daily Mandegar, Mukhtar Pedram, publisher of Daily Subh-e-Kabul, and Haidar Mutahar, editor-in-chief of Arman-e-Milli, are the founding members of Afghanistan Union of Newspapers.