Free speech: The major achievement at stake

Wednesday, 11 October 2017 03:25 Written by  Heart of Asia Read 95 times

Freedom of speech viewed as one of the major achievements of the past decade and a half is facing serious challenges, a new report reveals. 

 

The situation of freedom of speech has aggravated under the National Unity Government (NUG), compared to that under the former administration, the report recently published on free speech and access to information by Nai Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan, a leading media advocacy and vocational education agency, has found.

During the first three years of President Ghani-led National Unity Government, more incidents of violence against journalists and media outlets have happened than in the 13 years of Former President Hamid Karzai-led governments, registering a 400% increase. 

Freedom of speech was one of the key gains of the previous administration, which had facilitated a relative access to information, and the media industry to burgeon. However, it, among other gains, has received major blows since the inception of the current government.

Access to information as a key indicator of democratic societies is crucial to the fight against corruption because it is the access to information that helps media outlets draw governments’ attention to their deficiencies. Moreover, unfettered access to information encourages investigative journalism, the most effective and successful means for a government to fight corruption. Thus, hindering or restricting freedom of speech and access to information is the work of despotic and corrupt regimes. Governments unpoised or reluctant to be accountable to their people are trying to stifle the voice of people by censuring and putting the squeeze on the media. 

The National Unity Government that is shouting anti-corruption slogans should ease access to information for the media and public so as to determine whether the corruption has really been fought against or just the people have been deceived. In lieu of silencing people through pressing media outlets, government leaders should focus to address the grounds for people’s complaints and criticism, which are continued corruption and poor government performance.