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Call for clear commitment from Bonn conference to support freedom of expression and information

(RSF/IFEX) - 28 November 2011 - A decade after the removal of the Taliban government, journalists' unions and organizations that support open media in Afghanistan, together with Reporters Without Borders, call on the Kabul government and international diplomats to give a clear commitment to freedom of speech and information, as delegates prepare for the second international conference on the country's future in Bonn next month.

Afghanistan has never had more news outlets, with 200 print media, 44 television stations, 141 radio stations and at least eight news agencies.

On the other hand, in the past decade it has witnessed growing violence against news organizations and journalists.

Unions and organizations that support open media, and Reporters Without Borders, recorded hundreds of cases of such violence between 2001 and 2011. The largest number - 85 - took place in 2009, most of them in the provinces of Kabul, Herat and Helmand.

Some of the provinces in the south and east of the country are no-go areas for journalists since they are controlled by the Taliban who restrict journalistic activities.

We believe, and the experience of the past 10 years has proved, that without a free media and without a climate in which journalists can carry out their work in safety, we cannot protect peace, security and freedom.

Never before in Afghanistan's history have its people had so much free access to information provided by Afghans for Afghans. However, these gains are under daily threat.

Today, the enemies of free speech among the senior ranks of the government in most parts of the country want to abolish this constitutional right that was won by the blood of the people.

A lack of transparency in peace efforts, secret talks with super powers and the concealment of their outcome from the people raise the worrying prospect of a future where democracy and freedom, the cornerstones of permanent peace, are sacrificed for short-term gains based on deals reached behind closed doors.

News organizations are under serious threat, not only from the Taliban who are about to regain power as a result of strategic mistakes by the international military forces and the corruption and incompetence of the government, but also from local and national government officials and some Islamist clerics with ties to the government.

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