While President Ghani has endorsed the Access to Information Law, there still are a lot of challenges, and most government officials are not committed to implementing the law.
Many media supporting institutions say violence against journalists and media staff has increased, and access to information has been restricted. In addition to difficulties in accessing information, the freedom of speech and press has been faced with new challenges. In recent years, some people have been detained even by criticizing the government. Such detentions have increased recently, provoking concerns among people, particularly civil activists.
Mass media and freedom of speech are very crucial to ensure transparency in democratic societies, without which democracy is flawed and meaningless. The existence and independence of mass media is the only window of hope in a society like Afghanistan, where the government is riddled with corruption. Mass media is the easiest and most appropriate instrument which people can use to oversee their government’s performance, and hold their leaders accountable for what they do. Creating barriers to freedom of speech and expression under whatever name is an attempt to stifle the voice of masses, which will rather weaken the government than prop it up. The absence of free press and free speech will pave the way for corrupt government officials to operate more freely, but the expansion of corruption makes the government’s downfall inevitable.
In lieu of silencing people, the government should win their hearts and minds by improving its service delivery. The government cannot conceal its failure forever by depriving people of freedom of speech. The downfall of despotic regimes that rule nations against their will is inescapable. Governments, which don’t respect the will of their people, will be remembered by the history “in black lines” though they may last for some time.
All Afghans being within and outside the government who have real sympathy for the nation should join hands to protect the freedom of speech as a key achievement. Absence of free speech is only in the interest of corrupt government officials. If the government deprives people of this right in a bid to cover its failures, it is mistaken because the truth cannot be whitewashed forever.