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Media, security agencies agree on coverage protocols

(IFJ/IFEX) - March 11, 2010 - Afghanistan's media community and state security agencies have agreed on protocols for media coverage of insurgent and terrorist actions, according to the Afghan Independent Journalists' Association (AIJA), an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The IFJ welcomes the Afghan Ministry of Information's effort to ensure the views of the Afghan journalist community are heard in developing the protocols, rather than seeking to enforce state-directed restrictions on media content.

The AIJA said a three-day meeting convened by the Minister for Information and Culture, Sayed Makhdom Raheen, has agreed on mutual obligations and responsibilities of the media and the state agencies. The Afghan media community has agreed that:

- In accordance with Article 47, Paragraph 7, of the Afghan Mass Media Law, the broadcast of disturbing pictures of terrorist attacks and of their victims would be avoided.
- Images of security forces engaged in operations against terrorism would not be broadcast if there is a possibility that operational effectiveness will be compromised in the process.
- Utmost professional accuracy will be applied in covering news and events related to terrorist activities.

The Afghan security and intelligence agencies – represented by the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of the Interior and the National Directorate of Security – have undertaken to notify all concerned departments about the accord.

The Ministry of Information and Culture will shortly issue a statement detailing the agreed norms of coverage.

"The IFJ understands that concerns have grown over real-time media coverage of terrorist attacks since the February 28 attack in the Shar-e-Naw area of Kabul, which left 17 people dead," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

"Media professionals all over the world, and especially in South Asia, are seeking to grapple with the ethical and other issues involved in their coverage of conflict and war. As long as consultations are open and there is no effort on the part of the security and intelligence agencies to exempt their actions from public scrutiny, we believe that this process should lead to constructive outcomes."

The IFJ urges its partners in Afghanistan to remain engaged in the consultations in light of their commitment to the public right to information.

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