Peace talk: Afghan journalists need your support

As part of a series of talks on press freedom at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Afghan journalist and IMS gender coordinator for the Afghanistan programme Wahida Faizi shared her view on the situation of Afghan media.

After the Taliban takeover in August last year, independent Afghan media has been decimated; at least 60 percent of media outlets have closed down and only very few women journalists are still working. The situation of the press – both before the takeover and now – was on the agenda on a #PeaceTalk held by the Oslo Peace Center, the Norwegian Journalist Union, Oslo Met and IMS.

“When I talk to Afghan journalists still in Afghanistan, what they ask me is to get help to leave the country,” Wahida Faizi, a former award-winning journalist, told the audience.

Norwegian journalist and moderator Elisabeth Eide asked: “Many journalists are being detained as a consequence of their work. What can be done to ensure their release and support the Afghan media?”

“The Afghan journalists need the backup of the international community and also support from organisations representing journalism more than ever,” Wahida Faizi replied.

From Kabul to Copenhagen

Wahida Faizi used to work as a journalist in Afghanistan and until August 2021 she had a role as gender coordinator for IMS’ local partner. After the fall of Kabul, she and her husband were evacuated as part of the Danish authorities’ efforts to help NGO workers. Unfortunately, no journalists were selected to be part of the evacuation, which is still the case – sadly being a media worker does not lead to being granted a visa, leaving both journalists and supporting organisations with few to no options.

Although there are no exact figures on how many journalists have left Afghanistan, it is a substantial part of the formerly-thriving Afghan media scene. Most are jobless in camps in neighbouring countries, waiting for permanent relocation, while some have been evacuated by their international employers and are still covering Afghan news from exile. A few new online media platforms have also been established, supported by international organisations and funding.  

IMS in Afghanistan

Also IMS is continuing its engagement in Afghanistan through support to its local partner, which is still active in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. One of the aims of IMS is to uphold the ability for women to be active in Afghan media and, in support of this work, Wahida Faizi now works for IMS as a gender coordinator. Moreover, she uses her skills as a journalist to provide insights into the situation in Afghanistan for the Danish daily Politiken.

Norwegian donation

IMS received 479,515 DKK (approximately 64,000 EUR) as a donation from the Norwegian Journalist Union’s members, which will be used to support active media workers; for emergency medical purposes in special cases; to uphold the focus on safety and professional journalism in Afghanistan’s provinces through local partnerships; and – to the extent possible – to provide Afghan journalists in exile with training, psycho-social support or in other ways that will support the continued production of journalism. One hundred percent of the donation will be used for these purposes, meaning no administration or other fees will be deducted.