When the Media Leaves, the Women Suffer

When the Media Leaves, the Women Suffer
By Talia Whyte
Copyright 2005

Recently the Bush Administration commemorated the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. President Bush hailed the campaign as a landmark for equality and democracy in the Islamic world, especially for women. The US media presented Iraqi women with blue fingertips as a sign of change for a better life in a post Hussein, pro-democratic Iraq. However, what will happen once the reporters leave Iraq and the Bush administration moves to another country to bring “democracy.” Many activists believe that the plight of women in Iraq will go on deafening ears, just like the plight of women in Afghanistan.

The current state of social, economic, and political rights in Afghanistan is so distressing that a US-based advocacy group is calling for major news outlets to have more coverage of the country. “Most US media institutions don’t have full-time reporters in Afghanistan anymore,” said Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Women's Mission (AWM), an Afghan women’s rights organization based in California. "Much of the limited reporting coming out of Afghanistan has a misleading positive spin and is focused on superficial change. Despite their joy at being able to vote in elections last October, Afghan people are saddened that the United States has seemingly once more forgotten them.”

Kolhatkar and fellow co-director James Ingalls recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan with a very discouraging report. During their visit, the AWM co-directors were able to witness many of the problems that overwhelmed Afghan women and girls, and to interview them about their opinions on the current situation in Afghanistan.

"Very little has changed since the Taliban fell. Yet US media outlets have, through their inaccurate coverage and, more recently, lack of coverage, given the impression that women are now free, educated, and employed, and have political and economic equality. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Kolhatkar. Ingalls commented that women’s access to employment, education, health care, and housing, as well as their ability to have a voice in the new government, "are directly impacted by the continued US and Afghan government backing of warlords and regional commanders, a fact nobody wants to talk about in the US."

The Afghan Women’s Mission encourages the general public to get involved in their organization (www.afghanwomensmission.org) by writing to major media outlets, urging for better coverage of Afghan women’s rights. The Afghan Women's Mission praised Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other non-governmental organizations for their independent and steady coverage of Afghanistan.

“We don't see why news organizations shouldn't be able to do what we did," Kolhatkar added.

To read a recent opinion piece by Kolhatkar, go to http://alternet.org/mediaculture/21657/


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