Access to information vital to build strong society: Bokova
KABUL (Pajhwok): UNESCO Director-GeneralIrina Bokova has pledged seeking further support from potential donors, in particular for capacity building of Afghan media workers.
The safety of Afghan journalists, the role of women in media and access to public information by the people were the issues considered Irina Bokova on arriving in Kabul for a two-day visit.
She met Shafika Habibi, director of the Afghan Women Journalists Association, Najiba Ayubi, deputy director of the Afghanistan National Journalists Organisation, Danish Karokhel, member of the Oversight Commission for the implementation of the Access to Information Law and Najib Sharifi, director of the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee.
Karokhel shared his perspective on the implementation of the Access to Information Law approved in December 2014. “Eleven months back we created the 13-member commission that should oversee the law’s implementation. However, no governmental budget has been assigned to it so far,” he lamented.
The commission had elaborated a bylaw to strengthen its independence, he revealed, highlighting the importance of right to information in the fight against corruption and the promotion of sustainable, participatory development.
“A culture of information sharing is vital to strengthen accountability, to improve public policies and build stronger, more transparent societies,” Karokhel believed.
The UNESCO official referred to the launch of a future joint project with UNESCO to raise public awareness and encourage media and civil society to play an active role in pursuing the full implementation of the law.
“People should know that they have this right to access information,” said the director-general. “If they do not know their own rights, if they are not educated or encouraged, what is written in the law will never be fully implemented.”
The director of the Afghanistan Journalists Safety Committee underlined the role played by media in promoting democracy in the country. “However, we are under pressure from all sides” complained Sharifi.
He also referred to the closure of many media outlets because of financial problems. He recognised the commitment of the Afghan leadership towards media freedom, calling for more concrete action.
Bokova cited the expertise of UNESCO in the context of the UN Plan for the Safety of Journalists, with judges and prosecutors receiving specific training to prosecute crimes against journalists.
With regard to the situation of female journalists, Ms Ayubi said out of estimated 10,000 reporters in the country only 2,000 women are able to work. “While women represent 50% of the Afghan population, only 30 media organisations are managed by women, against around 1800 registered.”
Ms Habibi and Ms Ayubi agreed that the decision making power on hiring staff is dominated by men, stressing the importance of women in leadership positions in the media.
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