A Brief on the Status of ‘Freedom of Expression’ in Afghanistan
Arrangements necessary for ensuring and protecting ‘freedom of expression’ involve multiple dimensions that are briefly referred to in this short report.
Freedom of Expression in Afghanistan’s Legislations:
Constitution of Afghanistan deems freedom of expression inviolable and strictly guarantees protection and support in this regard. Aimed at protecting the freedom of expression and supporting the free circulation of information, the Mass Media Law of Afghanistan specifies executive framework of freedom of expression in the country. Except a few instances such as those related to ‘public spirit’, ‘security’ and ‘public interest’, this law protects freedom of expression from any type of violation and does not allow any pre-publication or post-publication censorship. Similarly, as one of the best pieces of legislations in this field globally, the Access to Information Law of Afghanistan recognizes the right to access information as a right of every citizen and obliges all government entities to be responsive and accountable in this regard.
The regulation on the establishment of mass media outlets in Afghanistan also stipulates the protection of press crew and ensures their job security. Additionally, Afghanistan’s accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR 1966) and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, guarantee the respect to media laws and access to information, free circulation of information, the right to freedom of thought and other measures in support of independent media.
Plurality and Diversity of Media Outlets:
In the recent years, the mass media has witnessed a significant growth. According to the Ministry of Information and Culture, around 2500 mass media outlets operate in Afghanistan. Besides the visual, audio and print media; social media users such as those of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram as well as citizen journalists also operate freely and without any restrictions.
Status of Access to Information:
According to the recent assessments of the ‘Global Right to Information’, the newly adopted Access to Information Law of Afghanistan scored 139 out of 150, making it to the top of the global list. Similarly, recent findings of the assessment with respect to access to information in sixty government institutions, conducted by the Ministry of Information and Culture in cooperation with Open Government Partnership (OGP), demonstrates that all these entities have established an information dissemination unit that is evident of government’s commitment in respecting the right to access information.
Addressing Cases of Mistreatment, Violence and Killing of Media Personnel:
Established a year ago, the Joint Committee on Safety and Security of Journalists, which includes in its membership base the Journalists Federation, association of advocacy of journalists’ rights, and government institutions; has processed over 1000 cases of mistreatment, violence and murder of journalists and press crew. Depending on the criminal nature of the offences, these cases have been adjudicated by relevant authorities, which reflect the commitment of the government in ensuring physical security of the journalists.
Government of Afghanistan’s Commitment in Support of ‘Freedom of Expression’:
As one of the significant gains of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the last eighteen years, freedom of expression is deemed as a ‘red line’ and the Government is committed to protect Human Rights values and freedom of expression. Currently, no journalist is in detention due to media activities and exercising ones’ right to freedom of expression, which in itself reflects the government’s commitment in supporting and safeguarding freedom of expression.