Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières) said today it was giving 4,000 Euro to the pioneering Afghan women’s magazine Malalai to help it out of a financial crisis seven months after its launch in Kabul.
Most of Afghanistan’s 100 or so publications are funded by international organisations, the government, political parties or provincial governors. They have little advertising revenue and few readers because of high illiteracy in the country and very poor distribution networks.
Despite support from the Franco-Afghan aid organisation Aïna and Germany’s Heinrich Böll Foundation, Malalai still lacks money and equipment (including computers, page-design software and digital cameras). The Reporters Without Borders aid was requested by Aïna’s founder, photographer Reza Deghati.
During a visit to France last May, Malalai’s editor, Jamila Mujahed, who is also a leading presenter on Afghan TV, received many promises of funding. But most of them did not materialise. Reporters Without Borders appeals to the women’s media, European governments and groups aiding independent media to support Malalai.
The international community has committed itself to rebuilding Afghanistan, but the financial problems of the leading women’s magazine are a symptom of the country’s difficulties.
Malalai was launched in Kabul on 21 February this year, publishes in Pashtu, Dari and English and sells for 5,000 afghanis (1.20 Euro) a copy. It has been backed by UNESCO, the French magazine Marie-Claire and the Heinrich Böll Foundation and has a staff of five Afghan journalists and one European. It prints 1,000 copies that are sold in Kabul and major provincial towns by street vendors and bookshops.
It is named after a heroine of the 17th century war against the British Empire and its goal is to be the voice of Afghan women. "I would like to see Afghan women be the Malalais of the 21st century, rebuilding their country and bringing up healthy children but also winning their rights as women," editor Mujahed recent told the French daily Le Figaro.
Reporters Without Borders last December helped fund Afghanistan’s main independent paper, Kabul Weekly, which was revived by journalist Faheem Dashty, with support from Aïna and UNESCO.