Interview 180: Afghan News Media Industry Matures, But Future Is Uncertain
Massoud Hossaini is a staff photojournalist for Agence France-Presse and the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for his image of a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan. Born in Afghanistan in 1981, Hossaini’s parents fled with him and his family to Iran when he was six months old to escape Soviet occupation. Following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States he returned to Afghanistan to join Aina, a cultural organization, and work as an independent photographer until joining the French news agency in 2007.
In part one of a two-part interview conducted in Hong Kong in September 2012, Hossaini discusses the current status of the news media industry in Afghanistan and press freedom issues in the coming years.
Below is the transcript of the video interview.
EurasiaNet.org: How has the Afghan news media profession changed in the past five to ten years?
Hossaini: Actually I should tell you that the golden result of these ten years and the spring, or the [birth], for the media in Afghanistan is these ten years. We have really good media. We are covering right now in Afghanistan, really closely every time. Even sometimes a live show of an attack. This is not something really easy. But we have this kind of development in our media. There are some [television stations] working as a kind of spokesperson for some parties. That’s true, we have those kinds of [television stations] too. But the most of the media, the [television stations] that grew up in these ten years, they’re getting really professional to cover the events and talk about that, and explore the situation for the people. That’s the golden result of these ten years.
EurasiaNet.org: What could happen to press freedom issues in Afghanistan in the next two or three years?
Hossaini: Just imagine, one of the main reasons that we have this freedom for speech is the existence of the foreign troops. And we believe and we are afraid that everything will be ruined and finished for the media in 2014, because then there won’t be any foreign NGOs or troops to, kind of, put pressure on some people who really want to ban the media. If that strategy of the president works, and the Taliban comes to the government after 2014, that is the death of the media for sure. We are worried about it, and we know that it will happen. The only thing that we hope is that our friends, our colleagues from the foreign countries do not leave us, do not forget us again there.
EurasiaNet.org: What are the differences in working as an Afghan journalist compared to that of a foreign journalist?
Hossaini: Because we are from that society and we know that society well, we can go and find our way to take the details. Or we can find our way to take [photos of] some of the events that foreigners cannot. [Because of] the Koran burning or insulting Islam, there was a demonstration, so foreigners couldn’t do it. Because if any of those demonstrators saw the foreigners they just wanted to attack them. So we do it. And, also, when we are going on an embed with troops to cover the war in the front line, we have more access to Afghans. And we can go and talk to them, and ask them what’s going on; what are these troops doing to your village or your home. And this is something where we find more details.
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