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IFJ calls on media owners to ensure journalists' safety as a matter of protecting press freedom

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 29 July 2007 IFJ media release:

IFJ Call on Afghan employers to ensure journalist safety

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned at the increased harassment and intimidation of Afghan journalists and the lack of effort by employers to adequately address the issue of journalist safety.

The concerns have been raised during an IFJ-sponsored national meeting of Afghan journalists in Kabul that aims to promote media rights and develop a national Charter on Media for Democracy.

The IFJ is worried that journalists have not been given proper support after they have received death threats, and that employers are not making practical efforts to ensure the safety of their employees.

The issue has arisen after the murder of two women journalists earlier this year and the ongoing harassment of many journalists as they perform their duties.

On June 1, Shokiba Sanga Amaaj, a reporter and presenter for the Pashtu language channel, Shamshad TV, was murdered. She had repeatedly been threatened with dire consequences for her resolve in acquiring an education and a professional skill.

On June 6, Zakia Zaki, head of the radio station Sada-e-Sulh (Peace Radio) in the Jabulsaraj district of Parwan province, was killed after three armed men broke into her home and shot her seven times with two different types of weapon while she was sleeping with her baby, less than six months old, and her two-year-old son.

She had reportedly received death threats before, relating to her criticism of the warlords who control the area.

Her radio station was the only independent station in Parwan and broadcast on issues such as human rights, women's rights and education - Zaki was also head of a local school.

"Media employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety, protection and well-being of their employees. There can be no press freedom if journalists work in a climate of fear," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
"Employers must implement measures to provide adequate security for their employees, offer flexible work arrangements if [employees are] threatened, help alleviate the stress their employees are under, and ensure that employees are safe at work, and also when they travel to and from their job."

There are reports of increased harassment and intimidation of Afghan journalists with many receiving phone and e-mail threats.

Women journalists in particular face ongoing pressure from those unwilling to accept the role of women working as professional journalists.

"The government, too, must do more to protect journalists. Police and other security forces must do all they can to protect journalists and to fully investigate the threats made against media workers, as well as bringing those responsible to justice," Park said.

"Too often a journalist reports a death threat but the issue is not treated seriously by the employer who fails to respond to the dire nature of the issue. Employers must realise that a threat to one of their journalists is a threat to the media organisation itself, and a deliberate attack on press freedom," she said.

The national meeting is part of a three-day summit of senior Afghan journalists who are examining issues including freedom of information, media rights monitoring and the development of a Charter that will be the framework for improved political and election reporting in the lead-up to the 2009 presidential election.

The summit is part of an 18-month program sponsored by the European Commission.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries.

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