Spotlight on women
As the security situation worsens, the number of women in the media is shrinking.
This is the finding of a new study published on the first anniversary of the opening of the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ).
Three hundred and twenty women in the print and electronic media were interviewed to assess the situation for women in the profession. Eighty of those interviewed work in television, 159 with radio, four news agencies and 79 print publications including 19 daily newspapers. There are four organisations that support the media – The committee for the safety of journalists, Nai – supporting open media in Afghanistan, national union of journalists, and free association of journalists of Afghanistan.
According to the report, there are 1,696 women working in media organisation; less than half (764) are professional journalists.
While Kabul tops the list of places with large numbers of women, Balkh and Herat provinces follow in second and third place.
National Radio Television Afghanistan has the most number of women (140), then Moby Group (95), Ariana Afghanistan TV (55), Bano Radio and Television (52), The Killid Group (40), Shamshad Radio and Television (40), Khurshid Television (38) and Zan Television (26).
Parts of the report were unveiled on Nov 20 last year at a joint press conference of Reporters without Borders and the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists. Farida Nekzad, CPAWJ chief, was quoted then in a Pajhwok Afghan News report saying the Centre has tried to "provide and release accurate data on the number of women journalists".
Considering the everyday security risk that women journalists face, CPAWJ decided its first task would be to put together figures and statistics, the absence of which have proved serious obstacles to comprehending the situation in the newly established democracy in Afghanistan. "The
Importance of dissemination of figures and statistics about women journalists is the first step for identification of problems in the work environment and society as well as detecting their (women's) demands," according to a statement issued at the press conference.
The CPAWJ report confirms with figures the widely held view that the number of women journalists has decreased over the last two years. The expansion of the war and increased insecurity are the main factors for the decline. Other reasons cited by media managers and editors are the continuing societal challenges: discrimination and harassment – even sexual – that women face from men at the workplace. CPAWJ blames men in media organisations for harassing female colleagues and subordinates. Moreover, women journalists are the targets of both verbal and physical violence when they travel on work.
In 2016-17, six women in the media were killed.
CPAWJ said some media organisations and managers refused to cooperate on the study despite repeated phone calls and reminders for information. "We had to wait for weeks and make repeated calls but the media did not act on promises to give support," says the report.
Researchers used various strategies to extract information: emails, face-to-face interviews, phone calls and letters.
The report reveals a worrying trend from Herat. The province, which after Kabul saw the maximum number of women in the media, has shown a sharp fall in numbers in the "past three months". Many women journalists in the province have left their media jobs and joined new professions because of social problems and pressure from families. Meanwhile, the news from Balkh province is encouraging. The number of women journalists there has increased over the past three months. Women are a visible presence in the print and electronic media and in strong managerial positions.