“All parties in any peace negotiations must uphold all fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom of expression,” the UN secretary-general’s special representative said.
Doborah Lyons said in a statement on World Press Freedom Day nothing should be allowed to threaten the critical advances in press freedoms in Afghanistan.
She said the United Nations was actively engaged in supporting independent media in Afghanistan. “Our human rights colleagues track crimes against media that are related to the armed conflict.
The UN family in Afghanistan promoted the protection of journalists and battling impunity to bring perpetrators to justice, the diplomat added.
Renewing the UN’s commitment to defend Afghanistan’s free press, Lyons promised: “We will do all in our power to support free media, so all journalists — Afghan media and foreign correspondents alike — can operate without fear of being harassed, intimidated or attacked.
“As we celebrate the successes of the Afghan press corps on World Press Freedom Day, we must remember the journalists who have lost their lives while pursuing their noble objectives in Afghanistan. Others have suffered intimidation and beatings while carrying out their duties.”
Hate speech, including incitement to violence and other forms of this poisonous activity, could not be allowed to turn Afghan against Afghan, harm peace efforts or to damage sensitive political processes, Lyons stressed.
She explained hate speech undermined social cohesion and eroded shared values, setting back the cause of stability and human dignity.
“The media must stand up against hate speech, and we all must consider what we can do to safeguard journalists and to recognize our collective obligations to take practical steps to address those forces that menace the media, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
As COVID-19 threatens life in Afghanistan and around the world, Lyons said, the importance of the media providing accurate and fact-based information could not be overstated.
“Harmful health advice has proliferated, with falsehoods filling the airwaves and conspiracy theories infecting the Internet. I salute the journalists who are fact-checking misleading stories, as the infection of misinformation puts lives at risk.”
Meanwhile, the UK embassy in Kabul renewed its commitment to supporting Afghanistan’s media and defending freedom of speech.
Last year, the British embassy implemented projects worth around £300,000 to support access to information, journalist safety and female journalists.
“The development of Afghanistan’s media has been one of the great successes since 2001,” a statement from the embassy said.
Media freedom and freedom of expression, more broadly, is an essential quality of any functioning democracy; people must be allowed to debate issues freely, challenge their governments and to make informed decisions; informed by a strong and robust media.
“Many Afghan journalists have died in the course of their work to protect these gains. It is vitally important that their sacrifice was not in vain and that media freedom is defended in Afghanistan. The UK will remain a committed partner in this area working with government, media and civil society.”