Afghanistan and media top agenda as AJA discusses options in virtual meeting

The AJA virtual meeting was devoted to discussing the situation in Afghjanistan and AJA expected role (Picture by Ashraf Aboul-Yazid)

The AJA virtual meeting was devoted to discussing the situation in Afghanistan and AJA’s expected role (Picture by Ashraf Aboul-Yazid)

SEOUL: Keen on properly understanding and assessing the latest development in Afghanistan and their repercussions, the Zoom meeting of the Asia Journalists Association (AJA) was devoted to Afghanistan.

The journalists coming from 10 countries discussed the situation from different angles with a multitude of views to share and explore, “just like those who paint landscapes set up their easels down in the valley in order to portray the nature of the mountains and the peaks, and climb up into the mountains in order to draw the valleys” as beautifully stated by Machiavelli.

Founding Chairman Sang-ki Lee urged the participants to brief the meeting on the position of their respective countries vis-à-vis the developments and invited them on engaging in a brainstorming session on ways AJA could extend assistance to the media and to journalists in or from Afghanistan.

AJA President Ashraf Aboul-Yazid cautioned that media would face serious challenges in Afghanistan following new restrictions ordered by Taliban.

“We can open a window for journalists from Afghanistan to post their reports,” he said. “The window will be very important because they do not have such an opportunity in their country.”

Nasir Aijaz, editor-in-chief of Pakistan’s Sindh Courier, said that while the Taliban promised to maintain good relations with all countries, “there is concern about attacks on journalists.”

He said that based on the reports he has read and the emails he has received from friends in Afghanistan, AJA should focus on press freedoms and violations and on human rights violations when addressing the situation in Afghanistan.

“It is high time AJA issued a statement, but we should not indulge in international politics,” he said.

Ivan Lim, AJA Honorary Chairman, from Singapore, said that regardless of political orientations, AJA supports press freedom and the independence of journalists.

“AJA should explore with the media in Afghanistan how the association can support them,” he said. “We at AJA should take good care of the Afghan journalists of they come to our countries.”

Norilla Daoud, Editor-in-Chief of World News Malaysia, urged caution when dealing with some media covering the situation in Afghanistan.

“I believe AJA should not go very far into the Afghanistan politics,” she said. “In the statement, we must give Taliban a chance first to prove that they have changed. But we should stand firm for the freedom of the press,” she said.

Nurzhan Kasmalieva , senior reporter in Kyrgyzstan’s Kabar News Agency, highlighted the significance of assistance that Afghan journalists may need.

She cited the example of an Afghan journalist friend who called her to ask about the possibility of getting a visa to Kyrgyzstan.

Nurzhan explained that her friend had left Afghanistan six months ago for medical treatment abroad and that he now does not want to go back home worried about the high risks he would encounter there.

“Amid concerns about journalists in Afghanistan, AJA should make a statement. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done,” she said.

Phong Lan, Deputy Head of the World News Desk Dantri from Vietnam, said there were concerns about the situation in Afghanistan, but stressed that stability should prevail.

AJA Vice Chairman Seok-jae Kang (Korea) talked about the arrival of 380 Afghans, including 180 children and infants, in Korea.

Hassan Humeida, a professor at Kiel University in Germany, highlighted policy, security and humanitarian issues.

AJA should engage in humanitarian issue in a neutral way, including media and education measures, he said.

Khatuna Chapichadze, Georgian Technical University (Georgia), said that AJA should get involved in gathering stories and spreading the word about what is happening in Afghanistan.

The AJA meeting stressed the significance of reporting accurately on the situation and developments by using the local Afghan network rather than following the views expressed in foreign media.

Several members said they would contact Afghan media figures and liaise with them for accurate reporting.

AJA, a fervent supporter of press freedom, peaceful co-existence and mutual tolerance, has been holding regular Zoom meetings since July 2020 to ensure the smooth continuation of its commitment to conversations and consultations among its members regarding developments and issues across Asia.

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