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34: The year that was

AT editors
For Afghanistan Today, 2012 produced plenty of great writing and photography in some challenging and occasionally menacing work conditions. We survived some eventful travels and made a lot of new friends, and…
31.12.2012  |  Berlin
Picnic time: Afghan and Tajik colleagues unwind after the June workshop in Dushanbe. Main photo: The same participants wrestle with journalistic challenges of a shared border. (Photos: Nick Allen)
Picnic time: Afghan and Tajik colleagues unwind after the June workshop in Dushanbe. Main photo: The same participants wrestle with journalistic challenges of a shared border. (Photos: Nick Allen)
It would be peculiar, wrong even, if Afghanistan Today had sailed through 2012 without experiencing some of the challenges, trials and tribulations that affect the country’s population on a daily basis. 
While the project is managed overall from Germany, members of our team file their stories and photos from the length and breadth of Afghanistan, battling conditions that would make their media colleagues in Europe or North America count their blessings. This year, our contributors faced intimidation and death threats, obstruction by corrupt officials, and perilous road journeys to report stories or to get visas for our two workshops held outside the country. Hares Kakar’s excellent diary piece ‘Afghan journey to journalism’ caught the attention of our readers for its revealing focus on this very specific working environment. Similarly, our meeting during the recent workshop in Islamabad with the head of Pakistan’s Tribal Union of Journalists, Safdar Dawar, reminded us of the perilous line that journalists in that country tread: His account of the murder of a dozen journalists in the border region in recent years reminds us of our colleagues’ courageous dedication there too.
Other upheavals included the hasty rescheduling of a workshop in Kabul because of violence triggered by the film Innocence of Muslims. But 2013 also saw some bold steps forward in the development of Afghanistan Today. Under new sub-projects to examine issues of cross-border importance, 18 of our Afghan contributors travelled to Islamabad and Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe to meet Pakistani and Tajik colleagues. Whilst throwing up numerous complicated logistic and journalistic issues, these events successfully paved the way for more of the same in 2013.
   
As for the stories and photos that this combined effort produces, 2013 was a bumper year. With over 100 features, diary, debate and opinion pieces, and dozens of Afghan Eye photos and slideshows, the cast of the website has exceeded the previous two years since the project’s inception. And while we cover topics that make the international headlines, we also take pride in offering more offbeat or less dramatic topics that are as important as the headline grabbers. Notable items this year included Masood Momin’s ‘The ABC gets mobile’, about literacy courses offered through Afghanistan’s huge mobile phone network, or Sada Soltani’s ‘Hard Grind’, a portrait of the female breadwinner of a typically struggling Afghan family. 
Thanks to the unswerving dedication of our contributors and the support of the German Foreign Office, we will continue and expand the work in 2013. In the meantime, we would like to wish all our readers in Afghanistan and around the world a very happy, peaceful and prosperous Gregorian calendar New Year.

It would be peculiar, wrong even, if Afghanistan Today had sailed through 2012 without experiencing some of the challenges, trials and tribulations that affect the country’s population on a daily basis. 

While the project is managed overall from Germany, members of our team file their stories and photos from the length and breadth of Afghanistan, battling conditions that would make their media colleagues in Europe or North America count their blessings.

This year, our contributors faced intimidation and death threats, obstruction by corrupt officials, and perilous road journeys to report stories or to get visas for our two workshops held outside the country.

Hares Kakar’s excellent diary piece ‘Afghan journey to journalism’ caught the attention of our readers for its revealing focus on this very specific working environment. Similarly, our meeting during the recent workshop in Islamabad with the head of Pakistan’s Tribal Union of Journalists, Safdar Dawar, reminded us of the perilous line that journalists in that country tread: His account of the murder of a dozen Pakistani journalists in the border region in recent years highlighted our colleagues’ courageous dedication.

Other upheavals included the hasty rescheduling of a workshop in Kabul because of violence triggered by the inflammatory film Innocence of Muslims.

But 2012 also saw some bold steps forward in the development of Afghanistan Today. Under new sub-projects to examine issues of cross-border importance, 18 of our Afghan contributors travelled to Islamabad, Pakistan, and Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe to meet Pakistani and Tajik colleagues. While throwing up numerous complicated logistic and journalistic issues, these events successfully paved the way for further international cooperation in 2013.

Pashtu-speaking Afghan and Pakistani journalists meet for the first time at a joint workshop in Islamabad in early December.

As for the stories and photos that this combined effort produces, 2012 was a bumper year. With the publication of well over 100 features, diary, debate and opinion pieces, and dozens of Afghan Eye photos and slideshows, the cast of the website has exceeded that of the previous years since the project’s inception in 2010.

And while we cover topics that make the international headlines, we also take pride in offering more offbeat or less dramatic topics that are as important as the headline grabbers. Notable items this year included Masood Momin’s ‘The ABC gets mobile’, about literacy courses offered through Afghanistan’s huge mobile phone network, or Sada Soltani’s ‘Hard Grind’, a portrait of the female breadwinner of a struggling Afghan family. One writer, reporting under a pseudonym for security reasons, managed through determined investigation to uncover some of the shadowy workings of the country's vast logistical supply industry. And plenty of eyebrows were raised at Naqib Ahmad Atal's quirky 'Phone Capers,' about the fraudulent activities of a young man in Jalalabad whose feminine sounding voice has duped numerous gullible romeos in recent months.

Thanks to the unswerving dedication of our contributors and the support of the German Foreign Office, we will continue to expand our work in 2013. In the meantime, we would like to wish all of our colleagues and readers in Afghanistan and around the world a very happy, peaceful and prosperous Gregorian calendar New Year.

Nick Allen, Alex Macbeth, Farhad Peikar and Dirk Spilker

Afghanistan Today project editors and manager