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DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF UNESCO

Opening session of the Ad Hoc Independent High Commission of Communication and Information for Afghanistan

Opening session of the Ad Hoc Independent High Commission of Communication and Information for Afghanistan

On Monday 13 March 2006, the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism of Afghanistan, Mr Sayed Makhdom Raheen, and the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, opened the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Independent High Commission of Communication and Information for Afghanistan.

In just a few years, the Afghan people have made great strides in rebuilding a vibrant and forward-looking country from a devastated and war-torn land.

This Commission, which is composed of 15 Afghan media professionals and chaired by Mr Musa Maroofi, will take stock of the country’s media-related problems so as to assist the Afghan Government in its preparation of a medium-term development plan for the communication and information sector. Ambassador Musa Bin Jaafar Bin Hassan, President of the General Conference, and Mr Mohammad Zahir Aziz, Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Afghanistan to UNESCO, attended the opening session of this week-long meeting.

In his opening speech, the Director-General commended the “historic journey from conflict to reconciliation and democracy” made by Afghanistan. “In just a few years, the Afghan people have made great strides in rebuilding a vibrant and forward-looking country from a devastated and war-torn land. Officially no longer a country ‘in transition’, Afghanistan has a democratically elected government and an elected National Assembly. Reconstruction activities have taken place in all sectors, including those at the heart of UNESCO’s mandate, such as education, culture and communication”, he said.

Mr Matsuura stressed that freedom of expression is recognized as “an axiom of democratic development” in Afghanistan’s constitution and media legislation. “Just five years after the fall of a regime that banned all forms of independent media, Afghanistan is enjoying a renaissance of media pluralism. There are 300 newspapers and magazines, and about 40 private and community radio stations. In addition, there are half a dozen independent television channels in operation and the National Radio and Television is moving ahead with plans to transform itself into a Public Service Broadcaster”, he said.

Addressing the members of the Commission, Mr Matsuura thanked President Hamid Karzai for the “enormously encouraging message of support” he has sent to the Ad Hoc Independent High Commission. “He has appointed you, Commissioners, supported by an external advisory committee of international media experts, to strengthen the existing regulatory framework and formulate mass media policy … Your report and recommendations will be one more step towards the achievement of the rule of law and an environment where independent media can encourage reconciliation, good governance and unity, as well as the preservation of cultural diversity and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals”, he added.

Mr Matsuura expressed his appreciation to Ambassador Zahir Aziz and his staff at the Afghan Delegation to UNESCO for having proposed this initiative and for its cooperation in making this meeting possible; he also thanked the Japanese Government for having provided the resources for the work of this Commission.

The Director-General recalled what UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said at the recent London Conference on the Afghan Government’s Development Strategy: “After being forced to sacrifice so much in war, the Afghan people have willingly given even more to peace. They expect a peace dividend. And they deserve it. I could not agree more”, Mr Matsuura said.

Mr Raheen expressed his special thanks to the Director-General for hosting the meeting in “this house of peace and culture”, and for the steady support given by UNESCO to the Afghan democratic process, especially in the field of the cultural heritage, cultural diversity and communication. He stressed the necessity for Afghanistan, after three decades of war, to adopt an approach based upon a spirit of peace, culture, tolerance, freedom of speech and media freedom. In this regard, he mentioned the revised Media Law adopted last December as “a major advance”.

This meeting is the first of a series aimed at developing a media strategy for Afghanistan. It was established by the President of Afghanistan to elaborate recommendations on how to enhance the existing media regulatory framework and to formulate mass media objectives and policy.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info n°037-2006
  • 14-03-2006
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