July 24, 2019
The intra-Afghan meeting among the representatives of government, civil society, women, media and Taliban was held in Doha city, capital of Qatar.
Women journalists and media workers are concerned about no guarantee given for preserving their legal and reporting achievements. But the government assures, “Freedom of expression, support for media and women’s rights will be never be victimized in the negotiation process.”
According to reports from the meeting, participants released an eight-article resolution at the end of the session on July 8, 2019. The resolution reads: “Women’s rights will be ensured in political, social, economic, educational and cultural arenas in the framework of Islamic values and the rights of religious minorities will be included the government programs with the Taliban partnership.” But the resolution provided no guarantees on the maintaining of media values, freedom of speech and journalists, particularly women journalists.
Storay Karimi, one of women journalists who has worked with domestic and foreign media outlets for more than 12 years in the western Herat province and has worked hard to raise the voices of oppressed women, says that women’s biggest fear in the process was a return to the dark time when Afghan women even couldn’t go out of their houses without a male companion, while working as journalists was far away like a dream.
“It is never in women’s especially women journalists’ favor if Taliban come back with their two-decade back ideas, because they do not believe in the freedom of speech and women’s rights,” said Ms. Karimi in an interview with the Center for Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ).
“In this poor economic situation, women make up more than the half of population of our society. Most of them have jobs and support their families’ economy. If Taliban again oppose women’s jobs in the society, economic situation will get worse. The government is responsible to consider the concerns of women journalists.”
Meanwhile, Mariam Alimi, a lady serving as photojournalist for many years with different national and international media companies and has travelled to remote areas in the country, says that she has travelled through the roads controlled by Taliban with a fear from the insurgents. “When I was travelling to the remote areas for photography and training courses for local journalists, I had to take my cameras and other photography equipment. I was scared all the way if Taliban find out my identity and kill me,” she said.
Ms. Alimi added the issues of freedom of expression, media and journalists especially women journalists remained ambiguous in the Doha meetings, despite Taliban representatives said hopeful words regarding women. “There was no woman among Taliban representatives, so how can we trust them and their words and slogans?”
These are not only women reporters concerned about their fate, but some media runners have also the same feeling, criticizing the Doha meeting and want at least one article be added in the resolution about the freedom of speech and reporters particularly women journalists.
Shokoofa Seddiqi, is chief editor of Zan (Woman) TV, where the most staff are women. She is worried about their fate, saying Taliban did not want to discuss women’s rights and freedom in the Doha meeting. She called this as Taliban’s distrust for the freedom of speech and media activities specially the activities of women journalists.
“Taliban emphasized on women’s education and separately from men in Doha talks. So, how and under which circumstances will women work with men in the government and non-government entities? This is a great challenge and a matter of concern.”
Meanwhile, representatives of women and journalists tried to support achievements of women, freedom of speech, freedom of media and journalists’ rights to prevent the victimization of two-decade progresses.
Shah Gul Rezaiee, a member of provincial council, who participated in the Doha negotiations, said that Taliban faced today’s Afghans different from the past for the first time, the Afghans whose men and women are working side by side for greater goals.
“Now, Taliban are facing with open media and freedom of expression that are the achievements of a new and progressive Afghanistan. This progress is much different from 20 years ago when they ruled the country. Therefore, they need to pay respect to the freedom of expression and journalistic work by women,” Ms. Rezaiee said.
Seddiqullah Tawhidi, chief executive of the committee for journalists’ safety, who had represented media and reporters in the Doha talks, told the CPAWJ that Taliban agree with the women’s rights in education, inheritance and other matters in the framework of Islam.
“Afghanistan is an Islamic country with a constitution made based on Islamic orders. This is not clear what do Taliban mean by Islamic framework and what do they interpret activities of women journalists?”
But, Seddiq Seddiqi, President Ghani’s spokesman, assured of government’s support for freedom of speech and the 20 year achievements, saying these matters are part of government’s priorities and key values.
“The signing of the law of access to information, establishing of the independent commission of access to information, establishing of the joint committee for reporters’ safety for investigation of violence against journalists as well as providing a safer space for them and a supporting fund are the indicators of government’s strong commitment for freedom of speech and reporters,” said Seddiqi.
According to Seddiqi, the government of Afghanistan has never censored media outlets, claiming that freedom of speech in Afghanistan is matchless in the region. He said that the government believes freedom of speech is the result of hard working of Afghans.
“Freedom of speech is the red line of government in all circumstances even in very decisive issues regarding peace with armed opposition. Freedom of speech, support of media and women’s rights will never be the victims of negotiations,” he said.
“As the president has always said and we repeat it, no agreement will be gained unless all government-proposed matters are agreed. These include end of war, maintaining of individual freedoms especially women’s who are concerned of this problem. Also it includes freedom of speech and media activities.”
He called preserving of the recent achievements as one of the aims of talks with Taliban, saying that government tries to maintain these achievements and prevent Afghanistan from going back the dark era.
Women’s concerns over losing their 18 year achievements are increasing with the beginning of peace negotiations between government and Taliban. Women journalists have recalled bitter experiences of Taliban rule in different interviews, saying the militants violate women’s rights. They fear if the Taliban’s era comes again when they join the government.
Reported by: Beheshta Ayoubi
Edited by: Center for Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ)