‘Spiraling Faryab insecurity stifles media role’

MAIMANA (Pajhwok): Some media officials and activists in northern Faryab province complain interference by local officials, lack of funds and support of the government and specifically growing insecurity are among reasons slowing down the role of media in the province.
The activists warn if government and international organisations fail to support media it would be a big blow to the government’s achievements in the last 14 years.
After toppling of Taliban regime, more than 15 weekly and monthly papers and publications started their activities in national and local languages.
Majority of these outlets have stopped publications in the past two years due to lack of funds by donors and evacuation of foreign troops from the province. Printing press is also non-existent in the province and these papers get printed in Kabul or Mazar-i-Sharif.
Despite being a cultural and academic province, Faryab has a state-run weekly and two other papers that are being published irregularly while outlets have faced closure.
Mohammad Kazem Amini, editor-in-chief of “Maimana” newspaper, said they started first publication 13 years ago with the aim of reflecting social, cultural and environmental issues.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News his paper was published in the last eight years 40 times with his own finance, but was closed down by local officials.
“In the last one year because of a satirical poem titled “message to powerful” they summoned me to attorney general office twice and even there was an attempt on my life, thinking the piece was an insult to local officials,” he remarked.
He added in the last 14 years mass communication means should have been extended to every corner and village of the province, but in contrary it was reduced and their activities were limited.
Regarding the cooperation of information and culture department with local media, he said: “Ministry of information and culture is a symbolic department. They themselves need help how they can help the media.”
Sayed Zainuddin Abedi, editor-in-chief of Tolo-i-Shams that got published irregularly in the province, said because of lack of funds he could not continue with the work.
He noted in the last 14 years, the government and international community invested in all sector except media in the province. He said if the officials had paid attention to the print media, it could prove highly useful to reform the society, social justice and changing public opinion.
He warned the remaining papers would also have no choice but to close down if the government did not assist them.
Waisuddin Samel, Rah-i-Sabz paper editor-in-chief, said he had been active in the past five years but faced many challenges including lack of professional writers.
Sayed Abdul Rashid Mansuri, director information and culture department, acknowledged the existing challenges, saying problem of security, lack of financial means, lack of professional cadre and donors had added up to their challenges.
Mohammad Kazim Amini, however, said director of information and culture had been appointed since last six months and did not have proper understanding of the system.
He added that Faryab had hundreds of professional cadre and adept writers.
The information and culture director said in the beginning some people were eager to start newspapers and publications, but when the donors stopped funding the outlets faced shut down.
Ahmad Firoz, a student at Faryab University, said media activities in the province over the last decade was appreciable but said the print media’s condition was a matter of concern. “The papers do not get printed on regular basis for economic and security reasons.”
Abdul Ahad Elbek, provincial council member, said the digital media had boomed in the province and was a major reason for decline of print media. He added television, radio, and social media had attracted people’s attention.
He urged government to address the financial and security issues of the press in the province. “There is no governor or district chief here. Everything is being taken care by acting officials. How we can address the problem of media in such a situation.”
The information and culture department officials made it clear they did not have financial means to assist private media. He said they have shared the issue with officials in Kabul to attract international donors for media’s support.
The only television channel in the province is the state-run source of communication that has five hours broadcasting daily.
Ariana, Arzo and Ayena are other private channels that could be accessed in the province.
Around eight radio stations also air programmes in the province, out of which Radio Qoyash had been actively airing programmes for women.
Information and culture director said the radios also faced the same challenge like the print media. “These radios are run by youth and only air songs and entertainment programmes. They don’t have educational programmes.”
Based on official figures, currently 35 television networks, 62 radio channels are active in Kabul, while 54 television networks and 160 radio channels are active in provinces.

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