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A tough woman, a tougher job

Life is tough enough for women in Afghanistan, but things get more complicated when a young woman decides to take up journalism in a country riddled with conflict.

Tamana Jamily is one such young reporter-in-the-making. A student of media studies in Mazar-e-Sharif, Jamily works part-time at a radio station in her city. Supported by a scholarship from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, she is now in Bonn to hone her radio skills in the Deutsche Welle. Jamily speaks to DW’s Martina Bertram about the dangerous life of a journalist in her war-ravaged country.

DW: How dangerous is it for women journalists in Afghanistan?

Tamana Jamily: It is a challenge and a tough job, because the security risk for journalists is, in general, very high, especially in the hot spots. For women journalists it is exceptionally risky because there is the additional danger of attacks and violence against women. That is why women usually work in editorial offices and much lesser as reporters on location.

But there are many women interested in this profession. In our study program there are four women and 45 men. This year, we have 15 women students in the first semester already. I am very passionate about my profession as a journalist and I believe, many women think the same themselves, despite the danger.

Where are the limits, the taboos in news coverage?

One should know beforehand: a journalist in Afghanistan works within a legal framework that punishes anti-national activities or any statement which goes against Islamic law. If one plans to write anything related to warlords or local or trans-regional state organizations, then one has to know exactly what one intends to write. Many journalists are afraid of attacks by local militia and end up in self-censorship. But mostly in the case of state institutions there is not enough access to information.

According to Reporters without Borders, Afghanistan is placed 147 in the list of 178 countries. Do you see any progress in the area of press freedom?

Many Afghan journalists fear death or attacks and many are also kidnapped. There are many challenges when it comes to press freedom. In any case, after the fall of the Taliban, there has been good progress in this regard. The Taliban monopoly over press freedom is over and today there are many private media organizations. Journalists use social media and that helps when there are problems. Today there are many interest groups where journalists can meet and discuss their situation and also get some protection. Content-wise as well, more is possible. I work at the Radio Rabea Balki, which makes programs specially for women and we report on sensitive issues like forced marriages, domestic violence or we talk about women’s shelters.  That is definitely one step ahead.

How can a free media help Afghan society?

I think, good journalism can help keep communities together because it means reporting about different events and different points of view. Media can help in putting a stop to the spiraling violence in Afghan society.

Journalism can also help in bridging educational deficits in Afghanistan. We are close to people, we know their problems and needs and we can gather basic information. In an ideal situation we can sensitize them, infuse new ideas and make people curious and mature.

Journalism acts as an interface between local and global events. We can help our society to understand its own role and those of other nations and cultures. Good journalism provides facts to this effect.

You make radio programs for women. What do your listeners get to hear?

Parallel to my studies, I work at Radio Balki in Mazar i Sharif. The radio station is a regional broadcaster especially for women. Everyday from 6 to 11 in the morning we have news, entertainment and educational programs. We want to encourage women to claim their rights to education. We report on new girls schools opening and we describe everything that is going on there and relate how important education of women is for our society. We hope that we can raise more awareness in our society.

Interview: Martina Bertram / mg
Editor: Grahame Lucas


29.12.2011 | 19:51