Afghanistan, a third-world country with high rates of poverty, is witnessing an ongoing development process of free media and freedom of speech. It has the top Access to Information Bill and the best Media Law in the region. The media market, although declining, still has opportunities to self-sustain. Media have a pivotal role to raise awareness in people on their rights and on their usage. During national political events such as elections, media play a critical role.
Although media have a history of 145 years, the new movement of free media is very young, with less than two decades. Thus, it has professional issues, although there are professional development processes going on. As much as the media are professional, the government is trying to control them and pressure them by bringing barriers and limitations. But still there are free media advocacy organisations to counter this process.
There are a several print media in Afghanistan, more than 170, but they cover only 1 percent of the population. Radio is the main tool for receiving information, especially in rural areas. More than 190 radios are operational in Afghanistan. TV is the main media through the cities. It covers almost 40 percent of the population. Digital media are expanding gradually and the expansion of Internet users is bringing forward digital media.
Social media have much power in the country. Facebook is the top while Twitter is the second. Youths are using social media the most. Blogs and Facebook could be counted as important opinion makers. But media as a whole have a big role in this regard.
Media face lots of issues including safety and security. Media associations and unions are active consequently in the country to advocate and to defend media rights.
Afghanistan lacks a systematic way of audience surveying, but the available data in this regard show how important media are in the country.
Accountability is also not an organised process, although there are ways of accountability of media. But these ways are weak and not sustainable. According to the law, technically and contently, media are regulated and there are regulatory bodies.
Universities and institutes are providing academic and vocational education facilities. Yet the academic system of education is old and outdated.
Communication is a success story in Afghanistan. According to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, 19 million people out of a population of almost 30 million are using mobile phones. There are six companies that are operational in Afghanistan and provide telecommunication services.
Innovation is under way in Afghanistan. 2012 was the first time the discourse on the topic formed. There are events and innovation labs that engage people to use technology for their benefits and creativeness.