At the end of Taliban rule in 2001, the media system in Afghanistan expanded rapidly. One of the factors contributing to this was the international financial support provided up until 2014. The liberalisation of the media system also played a major role. The Afghan media is now considered to be the most liberal system in the region. Since 2001, both state and private media providers have existed. The basis of the system is the Mass Media Law of Afghanistan. According to this law, every citizen has the right to establish a media organisation. 

The Afghan media is, therefore, able to reflect the multi-ethnicity of its society and give a voice to sections that have previously gone unheard (Seerat 2016). This tendency has been reinforced by the digital and online media revolution. People who were formerly marginalised, such as minorities, young people or women, now have the opportunity to appear in public through social media as communicators. They are no longer just the recipients, but also the active broadcasters of content.

Whole new possibilities have also opened up for journalists: media audiences on a national level in Afghanistan and on a global level throughout the Afghan diaspora can bring communities together and discuss common issues, and perhaps even mobilise people towards a common goal. Overall, everyday life and culture in Afghan society have been mediatised.

But the independence of the media also has negative sides. Many of the journalists are career entrants and have not had the benefit of professional training.

Also, media owners do not have clearly defined rules that ensure journalistic diligence. Another problem is that former “warlords” have their own media and use them as a platform for their own specific interests. Some stations exclusively broadcast in Pashto, Tajik or Uzbek. Calls for ethnic divisions or defamation are not prosecuted. This partially reinforces society’s fragmentation. To implement the Mass Media Law of Afghanistan, an independent and functioning judiciary is needed. However, due to corruption and lacking competence, trust in the judiciary is low. The political conditions in which journalists work are also problematic. Since 2001, almost 100 journalists have been killed. Forty of these murders are linked to the Taliban. Violence against journalists is rarely penalised. More than 1,200 cases of violence are known.

For an overview of Afghansistan’s media system, a graphic summary is provided below:

Interview with Shahlah Shaiq

YouTube Video: When playing this video, a connection to YouTube and Google servers is established

Nevertheless, the new media system is gradually helping to bring about positive changes. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the government to withhold information. The media have created transparency and offer insights into current events. For example, they help the population decide on a candidate before elections. Through the media, the public is developing an awareness of a wide range of issues, such as their rights or role in a democratic society.

silent vigil for murdered journalists in front of Herat University
silent vigil for murdered journalists in front of Herat University

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