Afghan / Afghanistan / Afghans / Bashir Gwakh / Britta Peterson / Human Rights / IFP / Jalalabad / JOurnalism / Kabul / Media Trainings / Medotheck / Nangarhar / Pashto / Pashton / War

Britta Peterson: "Afghans must develop a national vision for their country."

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Britta Petersen 42, is the Director of Initiative Free Press (IFP), a non government organization which trains journalists and support freedom of speech. IFP is a partner organization of Mediothek. Mediothek works with journalists, writers, human rights activists, students and teachers to help strengthen civil society structures. I had a little chat with her about Mediotec, IFP and media in Afghanistan.

What does IFP do?

IFP has been doing Media trainings in Afghanistan since 2003 in cooperation with Mediothek. We have been working in Kabul, Jalalabad, Herat, Kunduz, Mazar-e-Sharif and Wardak.

Recently, you have launched a project for journalists on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Tell us about the training of journalists from both sides of Durand line?

We had a workshop on Investigative Journalism in Jalalabad, Nangarhar. 17 journalists from different Pashto speaking provinces of Afghanistan participated and learned about investigative journalism. The workshop ran from 13th to 23th October 2008. Investigative journalism is as necessary as it is a challenge in Afghanistan. Journalists must be able to work professionally if they want to fulfill their duty as watchdogs in a democracy. I believe that we have taken a first step in this direction in Jalalabad.
The workshop was the kick-off event to a program for Pashton journalists from Afghanistan and Pakistan organized jointly by Mediothek Afghanistan and IFP. The aim is to create a network of Pashtu speaking journalists from both sides of the Durand line in order to promote peace and non-violent conflict resolution between the two neighboring countries.
For this purpose, two media centers – one in Jalalabad and one in Peshawar – have been set up. They will host a series of capacity building workshops for journalists throughout 2008 and 2009 as well as regular discussions, round-tables and functions in order to create a bond between the journalists. They also provide facilities such as computers, internet access and a library.
The participants of the first workshop in Jalalabad, who came from the provinces. Nangarhar, Kunar, Laghman, Khost and Kandarhar, will be traveling in December to Peshawar to attend a joint seminar with journalist from the tribal areas in Pakistan on “Peace journalism”. The program will be followed by a “Networking” workshop for the two groups as well as additional 17 journalists from Peshawar.
We hope that our project will lead to the establishment of a Pashtu news agency by 2010. We are optimist that we will find the necessary funding and start working on it.

Are these journalists going to have jobs in Mediothek? What next for them?

We hope that the planned news agency for the Pashtun provinces will be self sufficient financially and thus not dependent on donor money. For that is the only way to create long lasting job opportunities.

Many critics accuse Mediothek for lack of local leadership. I mean many believe that the heads of Mediothek’s local offices do not have healthy relations with local journalists, writers and universities. However, the main objective of Mediothek is to develop communication among intellectuals. What do you say about that?

As a foreigner who does not live in Jalalabad, I hardly have insights into the journalism scene in Nangarhar. I also do not consider it my business to get involved in the problems that Afghans have amongst each other. However, if this is the case, it is very unfortunate and I would really ask all the local journalists to make use of the facilities that are provided by the Mediothek Media Centre. If Afghans cannot settle their conflicts among each other, they will always be exploited by the vested interests of foreign powers.

Some believe there are not many professional trainers in Mediothek offices. For example, a student of Nangarhar University told me that the local instructor of Mediothek’s journalism workshop is not Journalism, media or communication graduate, and did not have enough experience or knowledge to teach journalism workshop. Do you have any specific plans to avoid such complains?

I do not know the trainers of the local workshops. The organization of these workshops has the responsibility of the local Mediothek alone and I do not have any information about the trainers or the content.

We have seen in Afghanistan that many NGOs have not been last for too long in Afghanistan due to lack of funds and other problems. For how long Mediothek is going to be there to serve?

The founder of Mediothek, Mr. A. Sultan Karimi has dedicated his entire life to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. He founded Mediothek already in 1992 when he was in exile in Germany and I do not think that he will ever give up his efforts.

As a media person, what is your opinion about the current Media atmosphere in Afghanistan? Problems, concerns, progress, etc.

To start with the positive: Since I first came to Afghanistan in January 2002, Afghan media have made tremendous progress! From almost no media at all, the country now has hundereds of newspapers, TV and radio stations. The young journalists have eagerly participated in all kinds of capacity buildiung offered by international organisations and it really shows in their work. Many jobs have been created in the media sector and journalism today is an attractive career opportunity for young graduates in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately in the last few years, the political conditions for journalists have not improved. On the contrary, as you know, many journalists have been killed, both by Taliban or local commanders who did not like their work. I have enormous respect for these women and men who sacrifized their lives for the free media in Afghanistan and they are the true martyrs. Unfortunately the situation also from the side of the government has worsened as the case of Pervez Khambash shows. The freedom of speech that is granted in the Afghan constitution is not respected and it will take a very long time and much effort in the future to make sure that journalists can keep on reporting the truth about what is going on in this country.

What do you think where Afghanistan is leading? Many believe we do not have a clear direction in future?

The situation is really difficult, for both lack of leadership inside the country and foreign intervention. It needs a totally new generation of politicians to lead Afghanistan into a better future. My hope is on the Youth!
Afghans must develop a national vision for their country based on rationality. The international community must support Afghanistan selflessly and stop playing their own different games.

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6 thoughts on “Britta Peterson: "Afghans must develop a national vision for their country."

  1. Afghanistan is a crucially important country in the world geo-politically – put a “follow” list on this blog – get more people reading your siteGood blog !Steve

  2. I think Britta’s point about internationals’ games is a very valubale one. It should have been explored further. The international community is not serious about eliminating insurgency, otherwise they could do it effectively.Interesting blog!Baser

  3. Dear Bashir Ahmad Gwakh,My name is John Wilpers. I am the Global Blog Coordinator for GlobalPost, a new international news organization set to launch on Jan. 12 (see http://www.globalpost.com).My job is to build a list of blogs that will appear on GlobalPost where we will have approximately 65 correspondents in some 46 countries. We are looking for enlightening, informative posts from bloggers writing (in English) in those countries.I am pleased to extend an invitation to you to have the most recent post of “AfghanCorner” included on the Afghanistan page of GlobalPost.com as part of our “Global Blogs” service. (I have also sent you an e-mail to double the chances of reaching you before we launch next week. Please pardon my enthusiasm for getting your posts onto GlobalPost.com!)After reviewing thousands of blogs worldwide, we have found “AfghanCorner” to be one that is thought provoking and gives readers your unique perspective on what life is really like in Afghanistan.The way it would work if you accept our invitation is that we would use your RSS feed to place your most recent post on your personal page on GlobalPost.com. We would point back to your actual blog for comments and for archives, hopefully driving lots of traffic to your site. Each time you write a new post, it would replace the older one so only one post would appear on GlobalPost.com.By appearing on Global Post’s exciting new international news website, your words, viewpoints, and pictures would gain worldwide exposure. Your posts would not only appear instantly on globalpost.com but also possibly on the sites of our partners, including the Huffington Post (7.8 million U.S. and 9.7 million global monthly unique visitors) and other news and information websites.You don’t need to do anything differently. We do request that you consider pointing back to us from your blog (we will send out logos shortly for your consideration).You should know that we have a few guidelines that we observe here at Global Post:1) We do not publish racist, sexist, or misogynist comments (unless those comments are the subject of the post).2) We do not publish obscene language or photos. While we recognize that obscenity can be difficult to define, we know it when we see it and we will let you know if we think you have crossed our line.3) We do not permit plagiarism. Any work taken from another source must be attributed to that source.4) We do not publish libelous or slanderous language.5) We do not tolerate repeated errors of fact or misrepresentations of facts or quotes.6) We do not publish work inciting violence.Failure to observe these guidelines would result in the removal of your blog from GlobalPost. We would contact you, of course, to discuss the post in question.Because we have a broad multicultural audience holding every conceivable political and religious viewpoint, we want to respect their views while also possibly challenging them. We will host controversial work. We will encourage robust debate of the hottest topics. We will not stifle discussion, only abuse of people, belief systems, and laws.We hope these guidelines are acceptable to you.I look forward getting your permission to put your RSS feed on our site. Please reply to: jwilpers@globalpost.com. Thank you!Sincerely,John WilpersPS If you choose to accept our invitation and would like a photo and a short biography to appear on GlobalPost, please send both to me with your confirmation e-mail or at some time shortly thereafter.JOHN WILPERSGlobal Blog CoordinatorThe Pilot HouseLewis WharfBoston, MA 02110617-688-0137jwilpers@globalpost.com

  4. Bashir,interesting interview with good straight forward questions. I didnt knew about this project before. As an Afghan, Journalist and blogger myself 😉 i enjoy reading your blog-and follow it @my igoogle.Looking forward to read more from you in the future,salamoonaH.N.

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