IAWRT Afghanistan Chapter President Najiba Ayubi did not think at first to leave the country. But when the Taliban showed outside her door, she started to think about how to get her whole family to safety.

This is not the first time she had to flee and not the first time armed men showed up at her home, yet she continued her work as a journalist. Now, she is finding ways to do so while in exile. 

As managing director of Killid Group, a non-profit media network that includes two of the country’s most popular magazines (Killid Weekly and Mursal Weekly) and eight radio stations with a total of 12 million listeners, Ayubi has previously experienced threats in line with her work. Her steadfastness and dedication earned her the 2013 Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women’s Media Foundation. She was also named as one of the 100 Information Heroes by Reporters Without Borders. 

In her program ‘Hot Seat’, IAWRT President Violet Gonda interviews Ayubi about her evacuation ordeal from Aghanistan to Germany and USA. The interview was done in December 2021 and published on February 3, 2022. The International Association of Women in Radio and Television has spent the last few months trying to assist its members to be evacuated from Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the country’s capital Kabul on August 15.

IAWRT Norway ushers Nobel Peace Prize with a gathering with women journalists who experienced detention and exile. Three of IAWRT International’s bravest journalists, who all have had to flee because of their journalism, participated with their stories at the meeting in the Press House in Oslo, 9 December, a day before the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov.

Violet Gonda, IAWRT President, shared IAWRT’s experience with working and campaigning for the freedom of IAWRT members Frenchie Mae Cumpio and Lady Ann Salem and working for the evacuation of IAWRT Afghanistan members. But Gonda herself has experienced persecution from the state, forcing her to go on exile for 20 years and only able to return to Zimbabwe in 2018, only to face harassment in her coverage of the government that toppled the Mugabe regime. She is back in UK and has launched her well-known series “Hot Seat” online. 

Najiba Ayubi, IAWRT Afghanistan chapter president, now in US after fleeing Taliban rule, is just starting her life in exile. Ayubi, editor at Killid Group, had faced threats in the practice of her journalism before.  She worked to encourage and support women journalists in a male-dominated media, and her fight for freedom of expression before, during and after Taliban’s takeover. She very reluctantly had to flee from Afghanistan, as the Taliban came knocking at her door.

Lady Ann Salem, IAWRT Communication Officer, was arrested on trumped-up charges. She is now leading a new pilot project using experience from her own detention to establish a Digital Safe House Project for journalists under threat. 

The IAWRT Digital Safehouse (DSH) pilot project in the Philippines will build an online platform that will link journalists’ safety programs and efforts.

IAWRT World Press Freedom Day statement 2021

The International Association of Women in Radio and Television gathered for an online protest on World Press Freedom Day 2021 to respond to so many human rights violations worldwide that put the lives of journalists at risk.

Our network has not been exempted from these violations. Here are some inhumane acts that some of our members have experienced

·       On December 10, 2020, journalist and IAWRT member Malalai Maiwand, and her driver, were killed in Afghanistan.

·       On the same day, Lady Ann Salem, our Communications Officer was arrested on possession of firearms and explosives trumped up charges. After almost three months, she was released after the court dismissed the charges as baseless and inconsistent.

·       Journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, IAWRT Philippines member is still in jail since February 7, 2020, arrested in a similar fashion and detained on similar charges as Icy was.

·       Several IAWRT members are working in countries reeling from war or grappling with the pandemic, both conditions have impeded or have been consciously used to restrict their duty of finding out and reporting the truth

With the steep rise in the attacks on journalists and a weakening in regulations protecting freedom of expression, indeed, women journalists and media workers, are in a very difficult situation.

The harassment of journalists not only affects media practitioners but shortchanges citizens who depend on the media to provide a critical service in society – denying people to access to truth which is a very sad reality.

A recent study by UNESCO, on online violence against women journalists, also shows that the majority of women journalists surveyed had experienced online violence relating to their work. Online violence against women journalists is used to silence independent voices, spread disinformation and undercut fact-based journalism.

In addition, more than 1,000 journalists have died due to COVID-19 according to the Press Emblem Campaign in April this year. Many of these deaths came as a result of a lack of protective equipment and unsafe working practices.

We stand with these struggles of journalists especially women journalists who, at the same time, continue to fight for their piece of airtime, for their spot in newsroom leadership and for women’s voices to be heard. We would also like to recognize the work that they have done and been doing as women journalists-truth tellers.

IAWRT joins all journalists and media workers from all over the world, to call for urgent measures to counter continuing threats and crisis worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We pray for the day when journalists are reporting the news and not making the news, for COVID-safe newsrooms, and general safe environments for media practitioners.