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Radio station editor and owner reportedly threatened by provincial governor

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

Governor's Threat Fuels Fears for Safety at Afghan Radio Station

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply disturbed over a report that the chief editor of a radio station in the northern Afghan province of Faryab has been threatened with possible closure of her station by the provincial governor.

Rona Shirzai, the owner and chief editor of Radio Quyash, based in the provincial capital of Maymana, said she was threatened by Faryab's governor, Abdul Haq Shafaq, and warned to obey his orders if she did not want the station closed and possibly risk her life, according to the Afghan Independent Journalists' Association (AIJA), an IFJ affiliate.

Shafaq reportedly demanded that Shirzai reinstate two employees who were dismissed for professional misconduct and the promotion of political agendas inconsistent with independent and ethical journalism.

The governor reportedly claimed a right to check that all programs were consistent with his political requirements.

Shirzai told the AIJA that he advised her to contact the police to ensure her safety and security.

The AIJA reports that Shafaq has assigned a team comprising two members of the provincial council, a representative from his office and another provincial administrative official to monitor programs broadcast on Radio Quyash and report anything that may be contrary to his diktat.

"The IFJ reminds the provincial authorities in Faryab and Afghanistan's national authorities that the threats against Rona Shirzai and Radio Quyash are thoroughly at variance with the free speech guarantees of Afghanistan's Constitution," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"If, as Shirzai claims, her problems are at least partly related to the fact that she belongs to an ethnic minority of Faryab province, then the governor's action points to a direct threat to the process of ethnic reconciliation that holds the key to peace in Afghanistan in the long term."

Radio Quyash is an independent broadcaster run by women which airs programs that deal with issues of poverty, illiteracy and human rights, as well as issues of specific interest to women such as forced marriages.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries.

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