UNESCO welcomes Kabul Declaration on free media in AfghanistanParis - A formal recommendation to enshrine the principles of free speech and free media in the new Afghan constitution has been warmly welcomed by UNESCO.
The recommendation is contained in a Declaration adopted yesterday, in Kabul, by some 120 participants at the end of the 3-day International Seminar on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media in Afghanistan, organized by the Ministry of Information and Culture and UNESCO, with the assistance of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and the NGOs Internews and Baltic Media Centre.
Speaking in Paris today, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Abdul Waheed Khan, said: "UNESCO is prepared to provide expertise and whatever help it can to assist the Afghan authorities in ensuring press freedom, allowing for the development of independent pluralistic media, and transforming the national broadcaster and news agency into editorially independent entities."
Articles 1 to 6 of the Declaration, on legal issues, notably recommend "that the fundamental right of free speech and free media be included in the new Constitution" and that a review of the legal system as it affects the media begin immediately so as "to promote freedom of expression, protect the rights of journalists, and guarantee their freedom to do their work in safety, including publishing critical reports and opinions."
The Declaration further asks that "licensing provisions in the Press Law should be suspended immediately" so that "anyone can publish newspapers and periodicals" and calls for "open government laws" giving the public and journalists access to information.
Articles 7 and 8, on broadcasting, call, in particular, for the transformation of Radio-Television Afghanistan into a public service broadcasting system with an independent board of governors, and a timetable for change to be adopted by the end of this year. It further calls for work "to establish an Independent Broadcast Authority to license radio and television broadcasters, equitably and pluralistically, with protections against political or economic interference" to start immediately. The Declaration calls on the international community to help fund the construction of a modern transmission infrastructure to help replace installations destroyed during 23 years of fighting.
Articles 9 to 13 on independent media recommend, among other measures, "that the international community continue to provide financial as well as technical assistance to promote the development of independent pluralistic media. At the same time, it is recommended that media should strive to become financially independent."
Furthermore, the Declaration recommends that journalists form associations to advocate media independence and devise "self-regulatory codes of ethics and conduct to promote and ensure professionalism and professional integrity."
The Declaration asks that "steps be commenced to make Bakhtar Information Agency a public entity independent of government authority, to compete with independent, privately owned news agencies."
Article 13 and 14, on implementation and monitoring, recommends that "these plans be integrated as part of national policy, and that sufficient resources be allocated within the government's annual budgets, supported by international donors" and that "a committee of journalists and other free media advocates be formed to work with the Ministry of Information and Culture in carrying out the goals presented in this Declaration."