After addressing just about every other issue of urgent national priority, Afghanistan’s fledging parliament has now turned its attention to the nation’s media. We are surprised the body has not picked on this topic sooner. In a country where the political culture is still void of such concepts as accountability and transparency, and where political intrigue and back-room deals are the preferred modus operandi for the most consequential of decisions and policies, the media has played a most important role to date.
From shedding light on official corruption, to turning the camera on the snoring parliamentarians, Afghanistan’s budding print and media outlets have proven surprisingly daring and resilient. Such daring has not come at no cost: under the Shinwari Supreme Court two newspaper editors were sacked, sentenced, and subsequently forced to flee or exiled. The tragic death of Ajmal Naqshbandi was the latest in a long string of abductions and executions of journalists by the Taliban. And more recently, others have taken it in their own hands to rectify the media’s behavior, even if through unconstitutional and extra-legal measures.
Now, the fate of the Fourth Estate in Afghanistan hangs in the balance. The parliament is close to passing a bill that will further erode what little freedom the media enjoys. News of this impending doom has worried all those who have worked to advance the cause of an open society in Afghanistan, as it should worry all those who desire to see an open society take root in Afghanistan.