Mediothek Afghanistan launches first election reporting network for 70 leading journalists
Over the past two days, 70 leading journalists from Afghanistan’s main TV, press and radio outlets met in Kabul to formally launch the Election Reporting Network (ERN). Established by Mediothek Afghanistan with financial backing and support from the German Government, the ERN is the country’s first project aimed at helping the Afghan press adopts journalism best practices for comprehensive and conflict-sensitive coverage of the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2015. The goal is to establish countrywide reporting that both looks at the deeper causes of conflict and voice the opinions of minorities and the grass-roots level that often go unreported.
The two-day program marking the start of the ERN brought together journalists from all of Afghanistan’s provinces to discuss the way forward for election reporting in Afghanistan. Although the media have improved in their coverage of past elections, a range of decisive issues and dynamics are still widely ignored and underrepresented in media coverage.
Since 2002, Afghanistan’s media landscape has flourished and today plays a key role both in informing the population about the importance of democratic elections and in encouraging people to take part in the country’s decision-making process. In 2015, Afghans will be the witness of the third parliamentary election. Many Afghan citizens will look to the media for more information about the political process. However, to better fulfil the demand for accurate and balanced reporting of the process, Afghan journalists also need more theoretical and practical knowledge on how to include a broad range of perspectives.
Based on a series of guest talks, presentations, open discussions and working groups for the 70 participants of the two-day kick-off meeting, the launch of the ERN was accompanied by the announcement of a manifest for the network. The issues discussed included a review of how the press performed in its previous election coverage. Did the media provide comprehensive, unbiased information for all? Did it report on the needs and concerns of marginalised groups, such as women and young people, or was it merely focused on elites and conflict parties? And, in this context, did Afghanistan’s press even contribute to or mitigate the potential for election-related violence?
Together with guest speakers from the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) and the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA), participants drafted the network goals in a manifest that commits Afghan journalists to a professional code for reporting on candidates, results, grass-roots organisations, minorities, the general public, ethnic tensions, civil society and violence.
As the ERN project intends to lay ground for long-term improvement in election reporting, the event will be followed by two training workshops late November. For this Mediothek has managed to engage internationally renowned experts from outside Afghanistan.
Built and supported with German funding, Mediothek Afghanistan runs various activities and programs for peace building, community development, civil society support. It has also run media workshops and conferences for over 3,600 journalists in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan.
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