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Free, independent and safe media environment essential, says UN envoy

Afghanistan
Typography

Nicholas-HaysomThe United Nations regards the advances made in press freedom as one of the most significant achievements of the past decade, said Afghanistan’s top UN envoy this week,  stressing that Afghan journalists must not be threatened, harassed or obstructed in their work.

“A free, independent and safe media environment is essential,” said Nicholas Haysom, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. “We appreciate the difficult conditions which journalists increasingly operate under in Afghanistan, and I want to reassure all Afghan journalists that we will continue to support the media and a free press in Afghanistan.”

World Press Freedom Day is marked annually on 3 May as a way to highlight how democratic societies depend on the free flow of information.

In Afghanistan, World Press Freedom Day was observed at UN-backed events in Kabul and across the country to emphasize this fundamental principle of protecting the independence of the media and to honour media workers who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

In Kabul this morning, more than 300 media professionals, government officials, civil society members, media advocates and international partners, including United Nations officials, gathered to commemorate the day. Afghanistan’s Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah, spoke at the event, saying the government is committed to supporting the media and press freedom. “We are standing with the media and are working to solve their problems,” he said.

Ricardo Grassi, speaking on behalf of UNESCO, stressed the importance of Afghan women working in the media, and cited the achievements of the government in its efforts to foster an open and free press. Mr. Grassi emphasized the importance of protecting journalists and reiterated the UN’s continuing support to Afghanistan’s journalists and media outlets.

Echoing the Secretary-General’s comments on World Press Freedom Day, Mr. Haysom said that constraints on freedom of expression place shackles on progress.

“Press freedom and the free flow of information are necessary to enable media outlets to hold their leaders accountable for fulfilling the pledges they have made,” said Mr. Haysom, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. “The media -- including, and increasingly, new online media -- serve as our eyes and ears; we all benefit from the information they provide.”

“On this World Press Freedom Day, I urge all Afghans to commit to nurturing and protecting an independent and free media, and to help to protect Afghan journalists,” he said. “Without this nurturing and protection, people are less free and less empowered; with it, Afghanistan can work together for a world of dignity and opportunity for all.”

UNESCO -- the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization -- is a specialized agency of the UN set up to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific and cultural reform.

UNESCO is part of the UN family in Afghanistan. More than 20 different UN entities are present in the country, working to support the Afghan Government’s priorities through a broad spectrum of development and humanitarian activities, including through support for development planning, resource mobilization, and coordination of international donors and organizations.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides good offices; promotes coherent development support by the international community; supports the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.