I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.
In his remarks on the new Afghanistan strategy last year, President Obama spoke very highly of Afghan sacrifices in our war. Afghans, he told us, “seek the promise of a better future” and deserve not only security, but “opportunity and justice.”
These are empty political phrases that Americans take for granted, but what about the Afghan audience? Are they actually getting the better future we promised? Aside from the obvious violence and misery caused by the occupation and insurgency, can Afghans count on even basic civil liberties like freedom of expression?
Nasim Fekrat writes [emphasis mine]:
Six years after the Afghan constitution was passed and nine years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghan journalists struggle with threats from the government, political parties, militants, and occasionally foreign forces. Afghan society has also played a role in self-censorship, perpetuated by the lack of a vibrant independent media. Without an independent media, freedom of expression is meaningless. And in Afghanistan, limitations on the media will only serve to bolster the views of powerful fundamentalists, and empower the belief among Afghans that the international community, which promised to institutionalize the freedom of expression and with it, democracy, has failed them.
Afghanistan needs a free press, not only for the sake of their journalists’ lives, but it’s absolutely fundamental to improving their government, their laws, and their society as whole. A free media allows citizens to become educated about politics and legislation, it allows victims of crime and corruption to tell their story through an impartial watchdog, and it allows a debate forum open enough for ideas like democracy and humans rights to compete, without fear, against the ideas of extremists and militants. No matter how many battles we win or terrorist commanders we kill, Afghanistan will never get a better future without these fundamental rights. Continue reading “Afghanistan: No “opportunity and justice” without free expression”