In democratic systems, people have the right to select leaders for themselves and act upon that right through elections.
Afghan people are now engaged in the election process for the second time where president and members of the provincial councils are elected.
For this purpose, all media outlets should work in such a way that people decide their future in the light of the specific plans of candidates, rather than their personalities or popularity.
Pajhwok’s plan for election coverage puts Afghan citizens first.
The ratio of illiteracy is very high in the Afghan society. Those who can’t read can’t study the plans and policies of every candidate and make their choice in the light of those.
To get information about the candidates and their plans, citizens often turn to print, radio, television and other electronic media outlets.
Pajhwok aims to produce coverage that is interesting to its audience as well as being accurate, detailed, and fair to all candidates.
Our name, “pajhwok” means echo or reflection. We will work to make our coverage an echo of voter voices and a reflection of Afghan society.
On the basis of its impartial policy, Pajhwok Afghan News has the reputation of a trusted agency inside and outside the country. Pajhwok considers it as its duty to cover the upcoming elections impartially just as it has done in the past. For this purpose, it has opted for the following coverage plan.
The purposes of this plan are:
- Help voters in a transparent and impartial manner and increase the participation of citizens in the elections.
- Keep an eye on the transparency and fairness of the election process and provide helpful, clear and beneficial information to the people about this process.
- Increase people’s trust in the neutrality of Pajhwok Afghan News.
An important point in support of these goals: Pajhwok Afghan News will release news that is timely, but accuracy and clarity are more important being first.
By the same token, this news agency deem it proper to release a single comprehensive report instead of several incomplete news items.
Linking the plans of the 41 presidential candidates by questioning their plans
Instead of the candidates’ personalities and fame, Pajhwok is attaching importance to their plans and programmes. For this purpose, we are questioning the candidates in detail and requesting that they have more organised and well-prepared plans.
The agency will place priority on topics which have newsworthiness and interest for the people, rather than what is fed to us by the candidates.
Pajhwok Afghan News will report about the meetings of candidates which have news significance and that focus on important topics and big problems.
For example: Speeches about major policies or plans, alliance formation of different groups, first public meeting for a candidate.
Pajhwok is preparing a daily report about the public support for candidates both from Kabul and provinces. It is clear that anyone holding more meetings would get more coverage in those reports.
As a rule of thumb, Pajhwok will file a report of that public meeting of a candidate where the number of participants is at least 500.
Pajhwok reporters will attempt to independently assess the number of the supporters in a meeting and not to rely only on the figures provided by participants or security officials.
This agency asks questions from the participants about the speeches delivered by the candidates during the public meetings and if needed, will get the views of the supporters of other candidates.
Pajhwok exercises discretion in reporting discriminatory remarks and does not highlight the discriminatory or inflammatory views of the candidates in its reports because all are Afghans, and candidates must represent all constituents. Reporting discriminatory statements is valid only when it is related to news or analysis.
This agency does not refer to discriminatory issues and avoid such reports which are not mindful of the people. Remarks that are intended solely to inflame or incite divisions in Afghan society will not be automatically reported.
Impartiality of reporters towards candidates in preparation of reports
Pajhwok Afghan News acknowledges that as Afghan citizens its reporters may have personal opinions about particular candidates or parties and that voting is also their right in the spirit of democracy. However, a reporter should be impartial and factual in preparation of his or her reports.
The editor will discuss personal biases with his reporters and take care that the reporter may not tilt his report in support of his favourite candidate.
Pajhwok is trying to keep the opinions of the people in mind and it believes that its reporter should talk to sources about the topic who are impartial.
To ensure that editors and reporters are practicing factual and fair coverage, Pajhwok’s news quality is overseen by an independent individual to monitor and ensure complete impartiality in its reports. The monitor is hired by Pajhwok on a limited-term contract and cannot be fired or re-hired, so as to carry out responsibilities without concern for retribution or reward.
Reporters of this agency will not be permitted to paste on their clothes, equipment, car or other personal belongings any likeness of a candidate or colour, symbol, slogan of a party. Reporters and editors should not discuss their favourite candidates in public gatherings.
By the same token, the journalists of this organization, during the speech of a candidate, should not express their feelings by clapping hands, nodding heads or vocalizing any signs of support.
The journalists of Pajhwok will ask questions impartially and to get information and will not use interviews to share their views and feelings.
Pajhwok will attempt to cover the security issues during elections without sensationalism and in such a way that the voters are aware without increasing their fear. Pajhwok will seek to look behind any security incidents to reveal the groups or individuals who are behind it.
Reports about numbering and surveys
Pajhwok is releasing the figures and surveys of only independent and professional organizations and will make every effort to get complete information about the people conducting the surveys.
In this way, Pajhwok will obtain information about how many people and what demographics of people were interviewed and what kind questions were asked in the survey about the elections. Information about the details of those surveys will be included in its reports.
Reports about the process of elections
Pajhwok is trying to explain the process in a simple manner for the common voters.
Pajhwok will make efforts to ensure that its news coverage is of interest and relevance to the female voters as half of the society are women. Similarly, reports will include details about the number of women participating in the election as well as about any discrimination against them.
The issues having importance for women are included in interviews with candidates and Pajhwok will give coverage to the female candidates based on the same standards of news value as male candidates.
The news agency will report about improvements and amendments to the laws regarding elections, and examples of people affected by the changes will be presented in those reports.
The purpose is to release information in a clear and simple way about each candidate, party and the election procedure so that the voters understand it and decide in advance which candidate is best able to address the needs as they see them.
Pajhwok reporters listen to the people’s problems, demands, suggestions and views and present those to the candidates. The needs of voters are at the core of all reporting on candidates.
Candidates’ meeting with Pajhwok:
Workers of Pajhwok Afghan News do not invite a candidate to visit the central or regional offices of the agency.
If a candidate wants to visit the office of Pajhwok Afghan News, the organisation would arrange an informal meeting The organisation does not accept gifts from any candidate or party to the director or a worker of Pajhwok Afghan News.
At any meeting held at the office of Pajhwok with candidates, two editors should also be present besides the director of the agency.
The director of Pajhwok Afghan News in the normal course of his social interactions in the community shall reduce his encounters with candidates during elections as much as possible, and if any such meeting is necessary, restrict discussion to common issues unrelated to the election campaign.
The director of Pajhwok Afghan News or any of its workers will avoid advising the candidates, and will not help them in calling news conferences, inviting journalists, writing of speeches or any other tasks.
Similarly, reporters will not share information with candidates which can result in increase of their votes and weakening of their opponents.
Correction of mistakes in reports about voting
As with all Pajhwok reporting, any mistake in elections coverage will be corrected as soon as possible.
If the mistake is regarding a significant fact, it will be corrected on the web site of Pajhwok Afghan News, and an email will be immediately sent to all subscribers of the news service.
The corrected report may be released again in case of a major mistake.
Advertisements of candidates
Pajhwok will publish advertisements of candidates and addresses of their web sites only when received from at least three candidates.
These advertisements will be published at a place and in such a manner to be separated from each other.
The advertisement of candidates having uniform size of 94 X 188 pixels would be published at the cost of 40,000 afghanis for the period of one month.