Kabul: Reporters Without Borders Tuesday launched a centre to protect women journalists in Afghanistan, the second most dangerous in the country for the profession after Syria.
The centre will aim to lobby the government for better working conditions and rights for women reporters. It will also talk to families to try to change perceptions that journalism is no job for a woman.
“We want to support women journalists both in war zones and within the news organisations for which they work to defend both their rights and their physical safety,” the centre’s president Farideh Nikzad said.
The biggest challenges are security and sexual abuse in the workplace, Nikzad said.
RSF’s secretary-general Christophe Deloire added: “By protecting women journalists, we are defending media freedom in Afghanistan.” The country currently has some 300-400 women journalists, mainly in the big cities.
They find themselves caught between Taliban militants on the one hand and their own families on the other, who often do not consider the job to be a suitable profession for a woman.
Four women journalists have been killed by their own relatives since 2002 for this very reason, according to RSF.
Afghanistan suffered its deadliest year on record for all journalists in 2016, according to a recent Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee report.
It said 13 journalists were killed last year, with the Taliban behind at least ten of the deaths.
In January last year seven employees of popular TV channel Tolo, often critical of the insurgents, were killed in a Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul in what the militant group said was revenge for “spreading propaganda” against them.
But the centre also hopes to pressure media bosses to combat discrimination.
Shilaa Baheer, a 25-year-old journalist from the northern province of Balkh, said she was forced to leave her TV station after enduring “disrespect by my colleagues”. She is now an independent radio reporter.