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Watchdog raises concern over attacks plaguing media industry

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(Last Updated On: December 28, 2020)
Afghanistan’s media workers have warned if government does not step up efforts to preserve freedom of expression and safeguard their lives they might end up being forced to flee the country. 
 
This comes after a string of attacks left five media workers dead in two months – amid a marked increase in targeted killings and attempted assassinations.  
 
At a meeting on Saturday, Afghan media workers said the escalation of targeted attacks against journalists and media workers has also led to self-censorship. 
 
In a statement issued by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the organization stated that the Afghan government and Taliban urgently need to consider and respond to the demands of the Afghan media for support, safety, protection, timely investigations and access to information.
 
The AIHRC said targeted killings of journalists in the past few months have had a negative impact on media across the country and that many female journalists from the provinces have left their jobs. 
 
“It is very difficult for journalists to have access to the districts, even those near the provincial centers. They cannot easily move around the city. When those working in media including journalists are threatened, they refer to government security agencies, but, according to journalists, their concerns and demands are not given sufficient attention by the security institutions,” the statement read.
 
At Saturday’s meeting, over 100 journalists and representatives of media support organizations shared their concerns and challenges with Shaharzad Akbar, the AIHRC’s Chairperson and the commission’s leadership.
 
AIHRC said: “There has been a lot of psychological pressure on those working in media in Afghanistan in recent months due to the environment of fear and intimidation created by the targeted attacks. 
 
“The media community are worried about more restrictions that could affect their work and their lives. 
 
“The government of Afghanistan has not shared sufficient information on preventing the targeted killings of journalists and prosecuting the perpetrators.”
 
This also comes just weeks after government announced it had dismantled the spokesperson position for provincial governor offices.
 
Since the decision came into effect, on December 2, the governors themselves are responsible for giving information to the media. 
 
“Dismantling this position has caused concern about disruption in the free circulation of information in the country. Most journalists complain about lack of access to information and data at the provincial level. 
 
“To this end, the media call on the government to ensure freedom of expression and respect people’s right to access information by revising the decision about dismantling the spokesperson position in the provincial governors’ offices,” the statement read.
 
Journalists at the meeting also called for a number of other measures to be considered. 
 
They asked for the international community to pressure the warring parties to agree to a ceasefire and end the violence and targeted killings; that the Afghan government must prevent targeted attacks, ensure security of journalists, and investigate cases of murder, threat, intimidation and violations against journalists. And also identify and prosecute the perpetrators and share the results with the people and families of the victims.
 
The journalists stated that the Taliban cannot abdicate responsibility for the attacks by mere denials and said if the Taliban is not involved, they must share their information and findings with the public. 
 
Some journalists expressed their concern over hate-inducing, violent language and narratives by local Taliban-affiliated media regarding independent journalists and free press and said this language and narrative has the potential to be normalized and could end up spreading violence against independent media.
 
The AIHRC meanwhile expressed its concern about the threats and limitations facing the media and journalists and called on the international community, Afghan government and Taliban to urgently consider the situation. 
 
Freedom of expression and the growth of the media sector is one of Afghanistan’s most significant achievements over the past twenty years and the media in Afghanistan has played an important role in ensuring citizens’ access to information, holding the government accountable, and promoting democratic institutions despite the difficult security situation. 

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US may resume Fulbright scholarship program for Afghans

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(Last Updated On: July 3, 2022)

The US State Department says it is considering resuming the Fulbright scholarship program for Afghan students for the 2023-2024 academic year.

A spokesperson for the US State Department told VOA: “We continue to work towards the safe resumption of the Fulbright program for Afghan students.”

He added: “For this course, we are considering semi-final applicants [for the academic year] 2022-2023.”

The semi-final applicants have already passed most of the eligibility stages and exams, including the English language test, which are required to join this study program, VOA reported.

After the collapse of the previous government and the Islamic Emirate’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, the United States canceled the Fulbright program for Afghans.

Every year, about 4,000 foreign students from dozens of countries receive Fulbright scholarships. More than 400,000 students from 160 countries have participated in this program since its inception in 1946.

From 2003 to 2021, more than 950 Afghans have benefited from the opportunity to study at the master’s and doctorate level in Fulbright programs. Fulbright master’s programs are one or two years, but the study period of the doctoral level is five years.

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Afghan scholars issue 11-point resolution after 3-day mass gathering in Kabul 

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2022)

An Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) gathering of religious scholars and ethnic leaders in Kabul ended on Saturday after an 11-point resolution was agreed to. 

Resolutions adopted related to a number of issues including the IEA’s call for the international community to recognize them as the legitimate government in Afghanistan. 

“We call on the world, neighboring countries, the United Nations, global organizations, specifically on the Islamic countries and agencies to recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as a legitimate government,” the resolution read. 

In addition, the participants at the meeting also called for all sanctions against the IEA and its leaders to be lifted and for the country’s frozen assets to be released. 

The IEA’s reclusive leader Haibatullah Akhundzada also joined the three-day gathering of more than 3,000 men on Friday, and delivered a speech in which he congratulated the participants on their victory and underlined the country’s independence. 

Akhundzada, who is normally based in the southern city of Kandahar and rarely appears in public, said in his address on Friday that foreigners should not give orders.

In their resolution, the religious scholars stated that defending the Islamic Emirate was obligatory and that the Islamic State (ISIS/Daesh), which has claimed responsibility for a number of incidents in recent months, was illegal.

A statement issued by the religious scholars outlining their 11-point resolution read as follows:

1. As we now have an Islamic system, we all support and defend the IEA system and it is compulsory for all Afghans to support and defend the Islamic system.

2. The 3,000 scholars once again renewed their allegiance to the supreme leader of the IEA Haibatullah Akhundzada and accepted him as the legitimate leader based on Sharia.

3. As the IEA has been formed without the interference of other countries, this verifies its domestic legitimacy. We call on the world, neighboring countries, the United Nations, global organizations, specifically on Islamic countries and agencies to recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as a legitimate government. In addition, they must remove all sanctions from Afghanistan and should release the county’s frozen assets. 

4. We (scholars) support and praise the issued order of the IEA for not cultivating poppies and other drugs in the country. 

5. We support the policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of neighboring and world countries by the IEA and we support the IEA’s decision to not allow any countries to use Afghanistan’s soil against any country. Likewise, we call on the countries around the world and neighbors not to interfere in the domestic affairs of Afghanistan. 

6. As the IEA is an Islamic system and has full sovereignty across the country by providing security, any means of armed resistance against the IEA is rebellion and the eradication of such armed resistance groups is compulsory by the IEA and the nation. 

7. The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP/Daesh) is an illegal group which spreads corruption in the country; therefore, financially supporting this group and having relationships with it is haram. 

8. We call on scholars who fuel controversial issues to refrain from such topics so as not to cause sedition in the country.

9. We urge the Islamic Emirate to establish justice in the country and to pave the way for religious and modern education, health, agriculture, rights of ethnic minorities and women and children and economic development, within the structure of Sharia. 

10. We call on the leadership of the IEA to stabilize their internal unity, national unity and to protect national sovereignty. Also, we urge them to create job opportunities for Afghans and to eradicate poverty in the country.

11. We support the Contact Commission with the Afghan Personalities established by the IEA and we call on politicians and figures based in foreign countries to return home.

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Afghan families would leave country if girls’ schools do not reopen: Hekmatyar

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2022)

Many Afghan families would leave their country if secondary girls’ schools do not reopen, Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said on Friday.

Hekmatyar, in his Friday sermon, said that a decision should be made regarding the issue of girls’ education at the gathering of religious scholars in Kabul.

“What does Islam say? What does our religion say? What do our imams and jurists say? What does the Qur’an and Hadith say?” Hekmatyar asked. “A decision should be made in this regard and it should be acceptable to all Afghans.”

“If the issue is not addressed, many families would leave Afghanistan only because girls’ are deprived of education here,” Hekmatyar said.

More than 3,000 religious scholars and ethnic leaders have gathered in the Loya Jirga hall in Kabul in what is said to be the largest gathering since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) took over in August last year.

While primary girls’ schools reopened in March, IEA didn’t allow the secondary ones to reopen.

In his speech, Hekmatyar also said that other issues including establishing parliament and drafting a new constitution should also have been on the agenda of the meeting.

Hizb-e-Islami leader also said that the government should clear its policy on political parties in Afghanistan.

On freedom of speech, Hekmatyar said that censorship would help corruption, a menace which could lead to collapse of governments.

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