The Center for Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ) released an updated figure about women journalists during its third anniversary. The new figures explain that 329 media companies are active in Afghanistan from which 74 are television broadcasters, 163 radio channels, seven news agencies, 85 printed media outlets that include 17 daily newspapers and the rest are monthly magazines, websites and three media supporting bodies such as committee for safety of journalists, media supporting body NAI and the Union of Women Journalists.
According to the findings, totally 7,577 people are busy in these organizations that 1,741 of them are women with 1,139 women working as journalists. The report says that most of women journalists are in Kabul, Balkh and Herat respectively. The MOBY media group has most of these women that their number reaches to 150, followed by the state-run National Radio and Television with 140, Ariana private broadcaster 50, Banu TV 47, Maiwand Radio and Television 40, Khurshid TV 40 and Zan TV with 35 women staff.
The Center worked for six month to collect the figures and has found these figures through direct meetings with media runners, telephone conversations and internet contacts.
The Center for Protection of Afghan Women Journalists for the first time released figures of women journalists in March 2019 with interviewing 323 media personnel. That report said that 1,696 women were working with the media from whom 764 were professional journalists. But the recent survey shows that the number of professional women journalists has jumped from 864 to 1,139.
The Center’s new research says Kabul tops with 108 media outlets and 4,940 staff that include 1,080 women workers and 816 of them professional journalists. The capital is followed by Balkh province in the north where 200 people are busy in media with 79 women and 42 professional women. Herat comes third that has 294 media workers including 74 women from whom 37 are professional reporters.
Nangarhar province in the east is the fourth place with 356 media workers, 48 women and 18 professional women. Kandahar in the south has 229 media personnel with 45 women and 18 professional women journalists. The last two provinces have recently witnessed an increase in the number of women journalists and media workers, but still women are afraid of working in the media because of security issues.
The previous report said that 153 people worked in the media with 29 women that included 10 professional women journalists, while in Kandahar 117 people worked for media from whom 19 were women and six of them were professional women journalists.
The previous report said that 150 people worked with media in Badakhshan, a remote mountainous province in the northeast. 66 women with 31 professional women journalists were among them. The adjacent province of Takhar had 156 media workers that included 54 women and six professional women journalists.
The new research launched in 2019, says that war and insecurity decreased in the south and southeastern areas, but increased in the north and northeastern provinces of Baghlan, Kunduz, Takhar, Badakhshan and Faryab. The insecurity directly affected media activities and its economic affairs.
According to the findings, no women have media activities in the provinces of Logar, Paktika, Nooristan, Nimroz and Uruzgan because of security issues and social problems. Just a few of women are busy in administration sections of media companies.
Wardak was part of the provinces where women worked for the media, according to the Center’s research launched two years ago. But now, women are working as journalists and other media workers in Kabul’s neighboring province.
Security issues had put negative impacts on women journalists in Kunduz province in the north. The previous survey said that 46 women journalists and media workers were working for 13 media outlets, while now, 48 women are working there since the situation has improved.
Increasing insecurity in the provinces of Herat, Balkh, Kunduz, Faryab and Farah have affected journalism in the past two years, with media runners saying that Taliban bar women from working in the media.
The Center’s survey also focuses on challenges before reporters. It finds economic problems and budget shortage are the most problems for journalists especially women journalists after war and violence. Social problems and lack of access to information are also called as main challenges.
The Center for Protection of Afghan Women Journalists is one of active bodies defending the rights of women journalists. It was established with the cooperation of the Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) and Committee to Protect Journalists on March 7, 2018 with the aim of defending the rights of women journalists. The Center’s main office is in Kabul city and has active agents in 20 provinces as the first network of women journalists.
The Center has so far done effective jobs for supporting of women journalists such as an investigative report on the condition and figure of women journalists in Afghanistan, the charter of harassment prohibition and women’s promotion in media, launching of campaigns for the charter, a declaration on the peace negotiations and the role of women journalists in this process and launching of campaigns for the declaration in 20 provinces.
The Center released a report on November 2nd last year on the occasion of international day to end impunity for crimes against journalists, saying that 11 Afghan and two foreign women journalists were killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
Seddiqullah Tawhidi, head of committee for journalists’ safety, told the Center in an interview: “Due to a reduction in explosions and suicide attacks as well as target killings of journalists, also because of awareness programs for journalists about their safety and the peace negotiations, violence against journalists had decreased.”
Discrimination, social problems
Women’s participation in social, political and cultural affairs particularly in media is challenging in many parts of Afghanistan. Negative public opinion against media and women’s job in media companies hampers them. Lack of public awareness about women’s job and social rights as well as family and society’s bigotry against women’s role in the media make obstacles before them.
The Center’s finding shows that old conservative traditions besides security issues in the provinces of Kunar, Logar, Paktia, Paktika, Helmand, Nooristan, Zabul, Khost, Uruzgan, Nimroz, Wardak and Panjshir bars women from outside activities. Powerful local armed men and discrimination as well as sexual harassment are other reasons that hinder women from working in the media.
“Besides insecurity, social problems, negative public opinion against media and an extremist ideology on women are the main obstacles before women’s progress in every sector especially journalism,” said Mohammad Farhad Ghafoori, head of Zainab Radio channel.
Mojibullah Khalvatgar, head of media supporting agency (NAI), told the Center: “The condition of professional women and their activities are better compared to two years back despite recent security concerns and restrictions against the media.”
Restrictions of access to information
According to the Center’s findings, lack of access to information has been recently a big challenge before media and journalists in Kabul and provinces. Some government offices impose restrictions on their information to reporters, while some officials have less information. This is especially a big problem for women reporters.
“Men journalists have less problems than women to receive information as they establish friendship with officials,” said Hamidullah Hamidi, head of Radio Neshat channel.
Meanwhile, Najiba Maram, deputy head of government’s committee of access right to information, told the Center that information is not a secret in an office, but it is the right of people who should be received. Ms. Maram ruled out rumors about media restriction once Taliban are shared power, saying that according to the law, nobody has the right of restricting information. “any regime and any government even internationally are bound to provide information to people and strengthen freedom of speech as a major principle.”
30 media companies released a joint statement on February 4th, protested further restriction imposed by the government on the access to information. The Reporters Sans Frontiers in a statement, supported Afghan media.
Crisis facing Afghan media
According to the Center’finding, 194 out of 523 media organizations have stopped activities due to financial problems, war and violence across the country. The challenge is inclusive and affects all the media companies.
Media runners in the provinces of Balkh, Daikondi, Sar-e-Pol, Jawzjan, Samangan, Badakhshan and Bamyan, call financial and social problems and less payment to their staff as big problems after war and violence.
They say that women journalists are not paid enough due to financial problems in their companies. Some of these journalists even work without payments.
Mohammad Nazif Salehi, head of Almas TV in Balkh province, says that financial problems are big challenge before women journalists. He said that 26 of 30 women left their jobs in the media as they were not paid as they expected.
Some of media directors believe that the government takes heavy taxes from them while their revenue is very less, so the media face bankruptcy as they can’t afford to pay taxes.
Seddiqa Sherzai, head of Roshani Radio and TV in Kunduz province, says the radio and TV stopped broadcasting due to financial problems, lack of aids and advertisements.
Although war and financial problems have caused reduction in the number of media workers, but women’s professional capacities have increased because of training programs, women’s interest in journalism and support from the Center for Protection of Afghan Women Journalists.
The Center worked hard in the past three years to resolve women journalists’ problems, the charter of prohibition of sexual harassment and promotion of women’s capacity in the media, and announced support of women journalists in a grand session.
The Center specified sexual harassment and spoke about it. It launched a campaign for struggle against violence, bigotry and sexual harassment, attracting media attention and calling on them to join the campaign for respecting women journalists.
Farida Nekzad, director of the Center for Protection of Afghan Women Journalists, said that the survey was a need considering women reporters’ condition and according to reports made by the Center.
Ms. Nekzad said that it took six months for the findings, adding that violence decreased in some provinces where women’s role is strong in the media.
“The figures of the report can be nearly a complete number of reporters and media women media workers in Afghanistan. Different bodies can use these figures as credible sources. Also, specifying of challenges can help us to seek and prioritize resolves and approaches,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Center welcomed the peace negotiations in a statement released on February 4th, but expressed concerns over silence regarding democracy including freedom of speech, freedom of media and rights of journalists especially women journalists in the negotiations.
For the first time, the Center raised voice of women journalists in the country and they shared complaints and concerns with the Center. They said they wouldn’t want their achievements gained in the past 18 years by suffering problems and sacrifices to be ignored. About 300 women reporters and members of civil society signed the Center’s statements and declared support for it.
Women’s active presence in media demonstrates the participation of half of society in the country’s progress and also helps their condition be improved. Their presence help women’s problems be explained in the society. If women and fact are the two main victims of war, women journalists are the most supporters of peace, calm and freedom.
The Center released a complete data about number of women in the media in its first anniversary on March 9th, 2019. It now shares the updated figures about it in its third anniversary.
The Center has collected the information for investigative reports about condition of women journalists by taking information from ministry of information and culture and its departments in the provinces as well as media supporting bodies.
Reported by: Beheshta Ayoubi