“Like Bosnia was before it, Afghanistan will probably be carved up into journalistic fiefdoms by local powers with an interest in keeping enmity alive, further fragmenting the country’s fragile society. So far, international efforts have focused on broadcasting news reported by non-Afghans…these efforts may do some good, but they will also soak up enormous amounts of precious aid…What Afghans need most from their journalists is not explanations from the outside world and its views, but reliable information and honest debate within their own society.”
-Anthony Borden and Edward Girardet, New York Times
“If you think covering the war is hard…try covering peace.”
-AP foreign editor Nate Polowetzky (in 1994)
“Reporters are like soldiers. The less they know, the longer they live.”
-Croatian militiaman, quoted in Nieman Reports, Winter 1999-Spring 2000.
“Freedom of the press, like any rights, costs money.”
-Prof. Stephen Kotkin, Russian history professor at Princeton University.
Despite these sobering observations, there is some hope that pluralistic, professional journalism will emerge from the rubble of Afghanistan. Internews, a non-profit NGO that has done much to revive journalism in the post-Communist world, has recently received a grant from the US government to develop a decentralized, independent radio and television network in Afghanistan. They will be working with the Afghan Media Resource Center, which has been the locus of non-Taliban, Afghan journalists since 1986. They will try to neutralize the impact of the kind of factional media that plague other conflict zones, continuing to incite violence. I have been impressed with Internews as I have been working with them on another new project: figuring out how media policies (laws and official practices) might be improved around the world to enable greater freedom of expression and access to information. Internews’ Open Media Campaign aims to collaborate with existing free expression organizations in a sustained effort that is being designed from the ground up in participating countries.