News: Afghan journalists free to report under new law
Story by Spc. Shanna Harrison
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan journalists of Laghman province attended the first ever Media Law training at the province’s Information, Cultural and Youth Department, Dec. 13-15.
The class was free and open to journalists of all forms of media, including print, broadcast and Internet. Thirty journalists from over a dozen news organizations across Laghman enrolled in the class, 10 of whom were female.
Media Law Training is something that has never been seen by Afghan journalists of Laghman province. Journalists were wary to expand their skills in media because the boundaries of the law were not clearly defined for them.
“They were scared because they didn’t know their immunities,” said Walid Mashal, Afghan legal advisor to the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
When Mashal attended a Media Law Training Program earlier this year, sponsored by England’s Oxford University held in Kabul, Afghanistan, he sought to allow the journalists of Laghman province to have the same opportunity for such a class.
“Because of the training, I knew the journalists in Laghman needed to know this,” said Mashal.
Mashal began coordinating with Maj. Michael Mejia, Rule of Law Attorney with Headquarters and Headquarters Co, 45th IBCT, to make the class official through the Department of Defense and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
“I make it happen, but stay behind the scenes,” said Mejia referencing the coordination of the training.
Once all the preparations were made, Laghman Province News affiliates were contacted to advertise the class.
Mohammad Ismail Hotak, another Afghan legal advisor with the 45th IBCT, along with Mashal, was an instructor for the training.
Attendees first received an overview of the Afghanistan government and legal system, learning about their rights as individuals under the 2004 Afghanistan Constitution, which adheres to Sharia Law, the religious law and moral code of Islam.
“They know their rights, freedom of expressions and speeches,” said Mashal.
The journalists were then given in-depth lessons in the overall legal framework for the media in Afghanistan. They learned about The Law on Mass Media, which has been enacted in accordance with Article 34 of the Constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant of Human Rights for ensuring the "protections of freedom of thought and speech," and "regulating the activities of mass media in the country."
According to article four, this law states, "the government shall support and strengthen the freedom of mass media. No real or incorporeal person including the government and government officials can interdict, prohibit, censor or limit the activities of mass media or interfere in the affairs of mass media through other means."
Journalists are also legally protected by this law while "carrying out their professional activities including publishing reports and critique views."
“They learned very new things to them,” said Mashal. “They need to know the legalities of journalism and they were very happy to learn.”
Mahammad Akbor, Afghan legal advisor for the 45th IBCT said the class was “very good,” and “all the people liked it. They didn’t have any information before and now in the future they can avoid legal issues.”