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Farida Nekzad on setting up a news agency in Afghanistan

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Farida Nekzad is a journalist and managing editor of Pajhwak, an independent news agency in Afghanistan. Pajhwak reaches Afghans through over 50 radio and independent television stations, providing daily news reports on local and regional issues. Like other women journalists in Afghanistan, she’s recently become the target of threats and harrassment. The murders of two women journalists in Afghanistan earlier this year underline the danger she faces. She’s visiting Canada to receive an International Press Freedom award from the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. Tell us how you founded this agency. I know just to have any independent press activity in Afghanistan is tough, but particularly for women.

FARIDA NEKZAD, AFGHAN JOURNALIST: We founded this news agency in 2004. And we produce by three language, Dari, Pashtun, English. And maximum we have per day about 40 news reports.

JAY: One of the women that was killed—I think her name was Zaki Zakizia [sic].


JAY: And I understand it’s suspected she was killed by warlords, not by the Taliban. Is that the case?

NEKZAD: Yeah. She before warned by warlords, and they were insist that you should close and bomb your radio. Why it was? Because there was women journalists, and they have some program that woman presented. At first they start warning her by letter and says, “We’ll kill you—don’t want your radio.”

JAY: And were the warlords telling her to close down because she was criticizing the warlords? Or just because she was a woman journalist?

NEKZAD: It’s problem for women, because in that area people don’t like journalism fit for woman. And the other thing, because on that area mostly warlords live. These people are capture their lands, their home, their houses.

JAY: Are these warlords that are involved in the government?

NEKZAD: We have some of them in the Parliament, some of them in a high position.

JAY: When I was in Afghanistan in 2002, first of all they were very happy the Taliban was gone. The demand that we heard most often, over and over and over again, was that the NATO forces should disarm the warlords.

NEKZAD: You were in Afghanistan. I think you know the process of DDR. DDR mean they bring their all gun, like these kinds things, turn to the government. But it was not success, because a person have just a few old gun, and they bring to government, they shows that now we become DDR.

JAY: Is the Karzai government or NATO or the US, are they doing anything to protect the journalists in Afghanistan?

NEKZAD: Government verbally says, “We are supporting journalists, and we are with you.” Why they don’t give the information? And they’re issue a letter that nobody can give information to the journalists.

JAY: Have they investigated the killing of Zaki?

NEKZAD: No. This is the problem. Not just Zakia. If you remember, one of the news presenter, Shaima Rezayee, was killed.

JAY: She was a talk show host.

NEKZAD: Yeah. And also Shakiva Sanga.

JAY: Who was a music video host, I take it.

NEKZAD: He was on Shamshad Television as a newscaster. And there is no guarantee for life of journalists. Generally women are target, especially women journalists and women leader of journalists.

JAY: Your news agency—it must be hard to fund an agency like this. How do you fund this agency?

NEKZAD: In the beginning by help of USAID.

JAY: Taking money from the USA. Do you find that hurts you in Afghanistan? I mean, do people see the fact that you have American money? Does it make people think that the journalism might not be independent?

NEKZAD: At the beginning it was a little problem, that if the people think that we are taking money from the US, maybe we are doing it for the policy which the US want. But it was day by day it’s clear for the people that we are doing our own, because we are independent. And now mostly we are trying to be self-sufficient, because we have subscriptions and advertisements. And we have some grants from Internews, and also we have some from Open Society.

JAY: The growing strength of the Taliban in certain areas in the countryside—you were saying that some people are welcoming that because it connected with security. But what about in Kabul, in the some of the bigger cities? How do people feel about the Taliban?

NEKZAD: During the Taliban, at least people were secure. No bomb explosion, no rockets, shooting. And in the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, you see there is bomb explosion, there is suicide attack, there is murder, there is kidnap.

JAY: But the Taliban are mostly responsible for the killings and the bombings [crosstalk]. So why do people see them as the solution?

NEKZAD: Of course, but what is the job of these people that they came for the sake of taking the responsibility for there being a peaceful Afghanistan? Because of the killing, because of security, because of the many explosions that they are losing their families, relatives. So they are thinking it is better if Taliban comes. For example, some of them lost their brother in the explosion. What’s Karzai doing? What is America doing? What is the NATO doing? Because they came to bring peace in Afghanistan. But even at the center of Afghanistan, Kabul, we are not safe. In some of the area, foreign force bombardment killed childs and women. They should do carefully, because right now they lose their trust a little bit. I think you have to seriously suggest that this should stop, because these people get angry and says, “Oh, they came to bring peace? Or they came for the reason that they should bombing on our houses?”

JAY: The foreign troops, the Canadian, NATO, the Americans, do they want them to stay or to leave?

NEKZAD: With the situation going on right now, they’re happy that they should leave Afghanistan. Yeah. That’s why we we’re hearing from the people.

JAY: But I know when I was there many people didn’t want the Taliban back, but they expected there to be reconstruction. And has there been the kind of reconstruction that was promised?

NEKZAD: There is some reconstruction, but unfortunately it was not success. The company which they deal with, they did not good quality work. The reconstruction is going on, but not at the level which people were hopeful. Maybe the organization misused the money and just made a little bit by the name of reconstruction.

JAY: If you talk to analysts and people who know the situation in Afghanistan, everyone’s saying the situation is getting worse and worse. If you agree with that, what should be done? What should be the policy?

NEKZAD: Well, they should delete the criminal people, warlords, from high position, even from Parliament. The second thing, they should have some negotiation. They can bring some of the Taliban who are thinking about the future of Afghanistan. And the third one should be the money that came—where they spend? How much did they spend? How much remain? This kind of things make reconstruction, rebuilding of Afghanistan, about bringing peace in Afghanistan. Otherwise, people will lose the trust. And in the future, Afghanistan again will be destroyed by those people misuse from that.

JAY: In terms of your own personal safety, you’re going to go back now. What are you going to face?

NEKZAD: I’m hopeful that I should be able to fight again to continue my work in any situation.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Farida Nekzad is editor-in-chief of Pajhwok News Agency, Afghanistan's only independent news agency. A champion of press freedom and women's rights in her country, she was recently honored with the 2007 International Press Freedom Award by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression in Toronto, Canada.