Afghanistan's Main Independent Weekly ReappearsKabul/Paris - The independent newspaper Kabul Weekly returned to the streets of the Afghan capital today, five years after it disappeared when the Taliban seized power.
Fourteen journalists, using just one computer, a printer and a scanner, put together the new 10-page tabloid carrying news in Dari, Pashtun, English and French. Some 2,500 copies were printed for sale in Kabul at 2,000 afghanis each, the price of a loaf of bread.
The paper is one of the first independent media to appear in the wake of the Taliban defeat. An all-Afghan staff of 11 men and three women (aged between 28 and 35) produce the paper with the help of the French non-governmental-organisation Aina. The editor is Mohamad Fahim Dashty, who survived the bomb attack that killed Northern Alliance chief Ahmed Massoud.
“Today, after 23 years of war and bloodshed under the rule of the gun, we are witnessing clear signs of a better and promising Afghanistan in the future, as the world community is committing itself to the reconstruction of the country as a liberated and independent state,” Dashty wrote in an editorial.
The first issue of the revived paper was put together in less than two months by the journalists who founded Kabul Weekly (Hafteh Nameyeh Kabol) in February 1993 amid the disputes between rival Mujahedeen factions. UNESCO helped the relaunch with a grant of $12,000 and is arranging more funding to keep the paper afloat.
Along with national and international news, sports and economic items, the paper will feature articles on history, women, religious and ethnic groups, and the future for young people in the reconstruction of the country. It is planning to launch its own internet website in March so it can reach Afghans living abroad.
To ensure it circulates throughout the country, UNESCO and the World Association of Newspapers are contributing their experience in restoring distribution networks for independent media in difficult post-war situations, as they did in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The three times that Kabul Weekly was closed down between 1993 and 1996 for criticising the authorities sparked protests by young people in Afghanistan’s main cities. Its circulation increased each time it reappeared and it became the country’s best-known independent publication. It began as 12 pages and 2,000 copies and grew to 16 pages and 6,000 before being closed by the Taliban. The paper employed up to 35 journalists and production staff, using computers, printers and a photo laboratory, all of which vanished after the Taliban seized Kabul in September 1996.
UNESCO will further support Afghanistan’s independent media by setting up a media centre in Kabul, which will be coordinated by Aina. The centre will serve as a resource centre, providing training, advice and information, as well as equipment (computers and printers), communication facilities (internet connections) and space for independent media to operate. UNESCO has contributed $10,000 to the project. Prospective occupants of the centre so far include Kabul Weekly, Ariana Film, Aria Press and a training facility.
At the request of Kabul TV, which returned to the air last November after the fall of the Taliban, UNESCO has given $35,000 for training journalists and technicians and has also appealed to public TV stations abroad to provide Kabul TV with quality programmes about the cultural treasures of other countries.