Afghanistan
Afghanistan has been the centre of various conflicts for several decades now. First invaded by the Soviet Union in 1979, then by US-led forces in 2001, this landlocked country has long been a centre of regional power struggle. As a result, its economy and infrastructure are in ruins and many locals are refugees or displaced.

The country is run from the capital, Kabul, with the help of a long-term, NATO-led military presence. But in fact, the government cannot claim to be in control. The Taliban – a group that began as a group of Islamic clerics who imposed strict religious law on the country until 2001 – is still a force to be reckoned with in Afghanistan.

2014 will be one of the most important years in Afghanistan’s recent history. Foreign troops will depart, handing over responsibility for the fragile security situation to Afghan forces. Locals have many concerns over this – these are not just security related but also economic, as international financial aid will also slow.

Media in Afghanistan: Radio broadcasts have the biggest reach in the country, especially in rural areas with television the second most popular form of media, although mainly among a more affluent, urban and educated audience. Print media is the least popular and is also struggling because, firstly, locals prefer not to pay for their news and secondly, online media is making life more difficult for print here as it is doing elsewhere in the world. Having said this, a whole generation of younger locals is accessing more media than ever via the Internet and social media.

Smaller independent media organisations struggle financially while larger organisations tend to be funded by those with partisan interests, such as political parties, religious groups and even former warlords. As international forces begin to withdraw from Afghanistan, the economic outlook for local media remains fairly bleak.

MICT has been working in Afghanistan since 2010, helping both established and emerging local journalists bring the nation’s untold stories to international attention on the project website, Afghanistan Today. The project has also reached across borders in Pakistan and Tajikistan.