In the last two decades, Afghan society progressed in almost all walks of life, but one of the biggest achievements happened in the field of the press. Afghanistan saw the emergence of the professional and independent media sector, but unfortunately, the Afghan press is going through a hard time. In an exclusive interview to Organiser representative Manish Rai, Khushnood Nabizada, founder of Khaama Press (KP) largest online service for Afghanistan says journalism is at cross-roads. He started the news agency in October 2010. KP is considered one of the most authentic sources of information regarding Afghanistan and is often quoted by reputed international journals. Khushnood Nabizada survived an assassination attempt on his life in February this year when his armoured vehicle was targeted in an IED blast in Kabul. Nabizada is currently in the United States, living in exile at a US military base in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Excerpts:
Currently, what are the main issues faced by Afghan media outlets?
The Media agencies and news outlets in Afghanistan are facing a challenging situation since the fall of Dr Ghani’s Government. Over 150 outlets have already shut down due to a shortage of operating funds or not being allowed to operate. Dozens of journalists have been detained and tortured since August 15, 2021.
The independent media agencies that used to collect operating funds from advertisements, subscriptions, news selling by providing marketing services and consultancy to businesses and organisations are more likely to collapse. The private sector is dying as the country’s economy is being fallen.
One of the significant achievements of the Afghan civil society in the last two decades has been the emergence of freedom of speech. How do you see it now?
Freedom of speech and many other democratic values are at high risk in Afghanistan. Access to information is limited to almost none. Journalists are neither allowed to cover events nor to report regarding the current situation prevailing in society. Few journalists and media outlets are still able to survive in Kabul. But there is no reporting happening from provincial cities, districts, and rural areas.
As a member of the journalism community, I am very much concerned about the future of the press and freedom of speech in Afghanistan.
The international media supports organisations which will not leave the Afghan media alone in this critical time. The empowerment of media in Afghanistan is in fact the shared achievement of the global community and international organisations. Losing these achievements will be a loss to Afghanistan and all those countries that claim to support democracy and freedom.
Khaama Press is the largest online news service for Afghanistan that was started in 2010 by you. How do you see its future?
Khaama Press, an 11-year-old news agency, is also passing through a tough time, and it has hardly managed to keep its services live since the Taliban captured power on August 15 till date. All our funding sources are stopped, and our business contracts have been cancelled. Many of our journalists, experts, and professional staff have already left their jobs and many of them have fled the country to seek asylum in Europe, the US, or Canada.
As I expressed my concerns earlier, if the situation does not change, Khaama Press may collapse. Also, an organisation that has been established and incorporated with the investment of a huge sum of dollars, time, and efforts of a committed and professional team of journalists and editors. Is fighting for its survival.
I am committed to trying my best to find a solution to avoid this media outlet’s collapse. I am looking for opportunities of stationing Khaama Press outside Afghanistan.
Is KP facing any issues with its operations?
Yes, as of now, we are facing many issues like- financial crisis, lack of technical expertise and professional journalists on the ground, no access to information. We are reporting with very limited resources. Many of our journalists cannot reflect what is actually happening on the ground as there is no law and competent authority to support them.
In today’s tough times, how Afghan media can maintain its independence?
It is hard and challenging for any independent media house in Afghanistan to continue its operations independently from inside the country. The only way I foresee for them is to move the head offices, the editorial and operational units to other countries and only keep a team of reporters inside Afghanistan.