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Fear cited behind self-censorship in the north

Fear cited behind self-censorship in the north

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On
Feb 08, 2017 - 17:09

MAZAR-I-SHARIF (Pajhwok): Journalists on Wednesday cited fear, self-censorship and lack of resources as major hurdles to investigative journalism in the country’s north.

They said threats from powerful individuals forced journalists into self-censorship and kept them away from conducting investigative reports.

Journalists in northern Balkh province also termed non-implementation of the Access to Information Law a big hurdle to investigative journalism.

But government officials, however, said they were ready to help journalists if they faced with any problem in discharging their duty.

Jawad Nabizada, a journalist in Mazar-i-Shaif, the provincial capital, identified two major reasons -- insecurity and lack of financial resources -- discouraging investigative journalism.

Nabizada said he would not work on a story after which he or his family could be threatened or their lives put in danger. He accused government institutions of not sharing information with journalists in time.

Qayyum Babak, known as investigative journalist in the northern zone, said journalists produced fewer investigative reports in the north and especially in Balkh because of increased threats.

“I am one of the journalists who are threatened for writing investigative reports, and there has been a conspiracy ongoing against us,” said Babak, admitting it was fear for life that disheartened journalists to work on investigative reports.

A reporter in Kunduz province, Gul Rahim Niaz, also called as problematic working on investigative reports.

He said there were several reasons journalists should fear about their safety while writing investigative reports. He saw fear behind self-censorship.

Giving an example, Niaz said: “A few years ago, I made an investigative report on usurpation of commercial lands.  A powerful man entered a dispute with me over the report. He was supported by the governor of a northern province.”

“We cannot dare write a piece on drug smuggling between Tajikistan and Afghanistan and on administrative corruption in which strongmen and government officials are involved,” he sighed.

Investigative journalist in Mazar-i-Sharif, Nasim Ronaq, said whenever she had attempted writing an investigative report she had either been put in trouble by a powerful man or a government official.

She told Pajhwok she had stopped working on investigative reports because she feared for her own and her family’s safety.

She said she was working for improvement in the society and if her reports put her life in danger, she would not do that.

A journalist from Baghlan province, Samiullah, said government officials and Taliban militants both created hurdles to journalists in working on investigative reports.

He said there were many subjects in Baghlan that needed investigation, but he could not research on them due to threats.

He said people’s had doubts about insecurity on the Baghlan-Kunduz and Baghlan-Mazar-i-Shari highways and the issue needed to be investigated and the reasons revealed.

Samiullah said he would be threatened with elimination if he started investigating such issues.

However, Journalist Association representatives said the absence of law enforcement was the mother of all problems.

Latif Sahak, the head of North Freelance Journalists Association in Mazar-i-Sharif, said that insecurity was not a problem for investigative journalism in many provinces of the country.

For example, he said, security situation in Balkh province was good, but officials there did not share information with journalists when needed.

The Access to Information Law was yet to be implemented in the north, particularly in Balkh, Sahak said.

However, government officials said they had not received any complaint about threats to journalists from powerful individuals or government officials.

Balkh Information and Culture Director Saleh Mohammad Khaliq said they had sent official letters to all local departments about implementation of the access to information law.

“If a journalist faces problem, the information and culture department is ready to help,” he said, adding no one had so far complained to them about threats.

Khaliq asked media workers to contact his department in case they faced any problem in finding access to information.

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