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The Killid Group
An Afghan media consortium for peaceWritten by Killid
Sunday, 18 March 2012 09:27
On March 12th in Kabul, the creation of the Afghan Independent Media Consortium was announced by its founding members: The Killid Group (TKG), Pajhwok Afghan News (PAN), Saba TV and Radio Nawa network, owned by Saba Media Organisation (SMO).
The announcement was made by Danish Karokhel, PAN's Director General and Editor-in-chief, Salam Rahimy, Director General of SMO, Shahir Zahine, Director General of TKG, and Ricardo Grassi, TKG's Media Development Director and coordinator of the Consortium.
It was stressed the Consortium is an informal association open to all non-biased Afghan media with the aim of substantially increasing the impact in generating public debate and opinion making. "For the transition phase to evolve into sustainable peace, this effort must succeed", said Rahimy, because "today the public debate is mainly driven by the narrative built by the insurgency on one side and the US/NATO/Afghan government on the other side and all this comes to us through the focus of the western media," completed Zahine.
The director-general of TKG added that "this confusion of constituency by the Afghan State, and international community civilian and military actors is very much responsible for the Afghans as a nation not to feel empowered, or part of the process."
Zahine said he believed "the time is now to build a national consensus, to consider Afghans the main constituency to whom the messages shall be addressed", and stressed that the intention of the Consortium is to "focus on the building of Afghan people's ownership and leadership of the process."
Zahine reviewed the media in the last decade. "Ten years back the international community invested in the development of Afghan media sector not for the sake of nation building or for encouraging freedom of speech and media, but for their need of local media to communicate with the Afghans on the milestones they have to reach together with the Afghan government following the first Bonn conference."
However, he continued, "Today the Afghan media sector including the commercial media, warlord-backed media, Iran and Pakistan backed-media, religious and ethnic-centric media and also the independent, is one of the few success stories of the decade."
At its point of departure, the Consortium represents "over 60 radios out of the 150 currently active in Afghanistan, TV broadcast facilities in 11 provinces, the main independent news agency, the two more important national weekly magazines -Morsal and Killid - and the soon to be launched Sapeda, a cultural monthly expected to become the more important in the country, and three websites", informed Rahimy.
Grassi underlined the aim was for building "the narrative of the reality" because with the various parties engaged in the war narrative, "which is propaganda, reality is not told and sustainable peace will be impossible unless we name things by their real names."
To succeed, Grassi explained, partnership with nongovernmental organisations, analysts and research centres has already been built. "There are today many NGOs working daily on peace building, monitoring reconstruction, access to justice and human rights, others providing data, analysis and ideas," he said, and added, "all this, which shows the country's daily life is dramatically underreported."
"The substantial novelty this Afghan independent media initiative brings is the decision on organising coverage and investigative reporting throughout the country together with NGOs and civil society organisations partners", said Grassi.
Difficult access to information
He added that while the access to information in the US "allows us to know, for instance, that in the last four years the US military has spent an average of 96 million dollars annually for 'information operations' in Afghanistan, here the access to public information is not yet ruled and becomes more difficult every day."
Karokhel presented a brief of the immediate editorial programme of the consortium. "We will tackle in depth coverage of areas that are strategic for the Afghan people and to build a State", he said listing agriculture, mining, industrial development, education and inter-regional relations among others.
Also radio and TV serials focusing on peace building, access to justice, anticorruption, among others, will be produced and disseminated by the independent media, considering it the more effective way to reach the Afghan population at large, added Karokhel.
Independent media efforts can expect getting capacity-building and mentoring support with regard to further development of local skills in the fields of investigative reporting, marketing, sales, script writing and business planning, it was informed at the press conference.
The Consortium's initial programme covers a 4-year frame through which "a reliable media that fulfils its watchdog role and disseminates all Afghan voices and sectors will be built."
Charter of the media consortium
Ten years after 2001 we are at a familiar cross road: building peace or renewing war and violence.
The difference is that today some Afghan media and civil society organisations have had a chance to gain and explore means to build better alternatives for the Afghan people.
The changing realities are underreported. With awareness and know-how, we are launching a new approach to reporting. We think it is imperative that Afghanistan's independent media enhance its own voice in national dialogue, thus assuming a more responsible role; one that its own maturity demands.
There is a need to take the Afghan media to the point of coordinating efforts with non-governmental organisations to contribute to gaining peace, ending violence and rebuilding Afghanistan as a sustainable State.
Together, The Killid Group (TKG), Pajhwok Afghan News (PAN) and Saba Media Organisation (SMO) took the initiative of creating the informal association 'Afghan Independent Media Consortium' with the aim of substantially increasing the impact in generating public debate and opinion making.
For the transition phase to evolve into sustainable peace, this effort must succeed.
Today, the public debate is still driven by the western media focus and by the narrative built by the insurgency, US/NATO-ISAF, the government and its related institutions and organisations.
It is time to build national consensus, considering that Afghans are the main constituency in their own country. New initiatives can and should be designed to build Afghan ownership and leadership.
These are still times in which the President accepts exclusive interviews only with foreign media and very rarely with the domestic one, while access to public information is not yet ruled and becomes more difficult every day. 10 years after, donors of some countries still avoid delivering grants directly to Afghan civil society organisations.
We believe that information, data and analysis serve to build a nation, enhance a constructive dialogue between its people and their representatives, and ultimately foster good governance.
We believe in the principles that rule reliable journalism world-wide. We believe, however, that these principles remain abstract and useless until they are applied in the context of our own work.
Our context is Afghanistan, among the poorer nations on Earth, shaken by wars that always included international interests; an endless tragedy for its people suffering deprivation and lack of hope.
It is from this perspective that our implementation of journalism values and ethics must be considered.
The main actors of our information are firstly Afghanistan and the Afghans, secondly the region where we are and the international community.
Access to information, data and analysis will be vital to meeting the aims of the Consortium. We have agreed to new partnerships with domestic NGOs, think tanks and research centres that work daily for justice, reconciliation, the peaceful resolution of conflicts, as well as towards Afghan ownership, democratic participation and programmes to tackle violence in society.
The results they are achieving must be communicated to all Afghans and the know-how they are providing needs to be shared.
Our aim is to create a space in which Afghan media and all sectors of the Afghan society will meet to support, enrich and disseminate a new and improved editorial programme.
Deliberately framed as an informal association, the Consortium is a coordination point open for all media that is primarily and objectively at the service of the people. Non-biased media, with a track record showing independent reporting, demonstrated outreach and willingness to support and enrich the implementation of the Consortium's broad editorial programme.
Media should reflect the expectations of all levels of Afghan entrepreneurship, labour organisations, nongovernmental organisations, as well as the myriad voices of Afghan culture, and within and across each sector the expectation and claims of women and youth.
Those in the Consortium believe that while war generates propaganda, lasting peace demands leadership, ownership and credibility. Thus we demand transparency and accountability in order to build better governance.
Afghan media has yet to live up to its expected watchdog role. It is still not a strong player when it comes to demanding the transparency and accountability that the people of Afghanistan have the right to. Too many things remain unknown while the media mainly follows events and is seldom proactive.
TKG, PAN and SMO together with other independent media and civil society organisations aim to fill these gaps, hoping that, in doing so, we will make more Afghan-led alternatives to the war possible.
In this context, we understand as independent media that the core of our mission is public service, hence our desire to remain unbiased with regard to business and any government interests.
Considering women and youth as cross-cutting issues, the Consortium with the support of partner organisations will perform its watchdog role from a constructive angle, focusing its coverage on real matters of concern for the present and immediate future of the people of Afghanistan. The essence of our work will include:
A. Investigative reporting on economic issues together with areas that are strategic for the Afghan people's wealth and to build a solid State, such as agriculture, mining, industrial development and trade, education, inter-regional relations.
B. Coverage of issues vital for strengthening democracy and good governance, among them reconciliation, transitional justice and peace building; access to justice, human rights, anticorruption and non-violent solutions to family, community and ethnic conflicts.
C. Production of radio and TV dramas focusing on the same areas.
D. Advertising with systematic intensity the journalistic outputs we produce to gain impact.
E. Contributing to the sustainability of the independent media sector.
F. Capacity-building and mentoring of investigative reporters, script writers, marketers, sales professionals, and business planners.
At its point of departure, the Consortium and its partners represent the following:
- Over 60 radios out of the 150 currently active in the country;
- TV facilities in 11 provinces;
- The main independent Afghan news agency;
- The two main Afghan national weekly magazines - Morsal and Killid- and Sapeda to-become soon a substantial monthly cultural magazine;
- Three websites;
- In-depth daily analytical material;
- Regular research and surveys;
- Regular monitoring of the access to justice, ownership building through, peace-building throughout the country, psychological counselling available in an increasing number of places;
- Systematic reconciliation work by human rights and transitional justice focused NGOs;
- Regional and international dissemination of Afghan journalistic outputs;
- The support provided so far by international donors.
The Consortium has elaborated an initial 4-year plan that will share with all Afghan media and civil society organisations."