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Afghanistan: Promoting responsible journalism in the midst of increased tensions
15 Mar. 2012

Afghan newspapers from the streets of Kabul. Photo: Susanna Inkinen/IMS.

As tensions run high after last month’s burning of the Muslim holy book, the Quran by US troops and the killing of 16 Afghan civilians on 11 March, Afghanistan’s media has a crucial role to play

The increasingly strained relationship between Afghanistan and the west, highlights the importance of responsible and professional reporting from the Afghan media covering the conflict, underlines one of IMS’ partners in the country:

“Incidents such as these provide the elements for promoting hatred against the West and further the distance between Afghans and the Westerners. We must work to counter this by promoting professional values and responsibility.”

Emotional commentary and provocation

Some Afghan media outlets’ handling of the events has been characterised by emotional commentary and attempts to provoke the population, says Farooq Jan Mangal from Khost in eastern Afghanistan:

“The emotional commentary by some presenters has led to a growing resentment of the local people toward foreigners. The media has provoked people by repeating the same story many times and by magnifying demonstrations from other provinces.

“The Khost media disproportionately highlighted the Taliban statement of avenging the killing of the civilians by the American soldier. Some outlets also report that it was a planned attack, and not the act of a rogue soldier.”

A culture of responsibility

As part of its work in Afghanistan International Media Support (IMS) is currently seeking to increase the awareness and knowledge of international and regional agreements and warzone conventions, while supporting the media to develop and maintain responsibility in their reporting, says IMS’ media advisor for Afghanistan:

“We try to support the media to develop a culture of responsibility when they report. It is crucial that the media does not incite violence.”

The current efforts extend into IMS’ work with the so-called Afghan safety-team, which works for the safety and security of Afghan journalists:

“Our safety team is currently calling on all NGOs and organisations that represent journalists to work together to ensure the safety of journalists, freedom of expression and human rights in Afghanistan.”

The recent killings by a US Army sergeant in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province, triggered ‘angry calls for an immediate American exit from Afghanistan’, and the anti-Americanism which followed from the burning of the holy Quran, is likely ‘to deepen further’, reports Al Jazeera English.

Following the recent weeks’ events, the Afghan Taliban announced on 15 March the suspension of all negotiations with the United States, talks that had been seeking an end to the decade-long war in Afghanistan.