REMARKS BY AMBASSADOR KARL W. EIKENBERRY AT THE COMMEMORATION OF THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF THE GOVERNMENT MEDIA AND INFORMATION CENTER - U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan
REMARKS BY AMBASSADOR KARL W. EIKENBERRY AT THE COMMEMORATION OF THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF THE
GOVERNMENT MEDIA AND INFORMATION CENTER
January 18, 2011
Greetings to Afghanistan’s media leaders and journalists and honored guests. What a pleasure it is to be here today to celebrate this important Afghan success story. Other speakers have already commented on the role played by the Government Media and Information Center in improving communications between the government and people of Afghanistan.
The video we have just seen also dramatically conveys how vibrant and important the GMIC has become in service to the Afghan government and people. Every time I visit the GMIC, and this beautiful facility, I am struck by the dynamism, confidence, and dedication of the Afghan staff of professionals working here.
Also, one only has to look at all of the television cameras in the back of this room today to see just how important GMIC’s role is, both for Afghanistan and for your international partners. A responsible and free media is a cornerstone of successful democracy.
When I first came to Afghanistan to serve in 2002, your country had only the beginnings of an independent media. That is clearly no longer the case.
As the independent media grew in size and confidence, it is not surprising that it took some time for a new Afghan government, emerging from decades of national turmoil, to come to grips with the legitimate role of the media in a democratic society.
I can say to you today that it is a great tribute to the Administration of President Hamid Karzai, and to the Afghan people, that your independent media is today one of the most dynamic and free medias in this entire region.
Today, clearly, the Afghan government and the media are engaged in a partnership, with the shared goal of ensuring that all Afghans have a more secure and hopeful future.
Make no mistake – government and media have separate roles to play, but gone are the days when the Afghan government viewed the media with suspicion and as part of the problem.
Gone too are the days when government officials resisted appearing on private TV and radio programs. Today, there is no part of the country closed to your media, and there are no issues your journalists are afraid to discuss. Gone are the days when the media were afraid to ask tough questions. Every week now your ministers, governors, and other top officials are conducting regular press conferences, taking in those tough questions, and trying to provide real answers. That is remarkable progress.
By any measure, this is a major success for Afghanistan, and the GMIC team has been at the heart of this success story.
Today we celebrate the second anniversary of the GMIC. We would not be here today had not representatives of the Afghan government and a collective of donors, including the governments of the United States, UK, Canada, and the Netherlands collaborated so well together to set up this important institution.
GMIC is a great model of effective coordination between the Afghan government and the international community. Through these joint efforts, the GMIC has emerged as a driving force to improve not only the flow of information to the Afghan people, but to strengthen the government’s appreciation of and respect for the legitimate role of the media in Afghan society.
As your partners, we rely on Afghanistan’s new media dynamic every day. We count on the media to provide accurate information to the Afghan people about the U.S. commitment to your country.
We rely on the media to reassure Afghans that support for your country will be an enduring one, lasting long after the end of 2014, the time when all expect that the Afghan national security forces will assume primary responsibility for the safety and security of the Afghan people.
Portions of these celebrations today will be broadcast to almost every part of Afghanistan and tomorrow by multiple TV networks and many radio stations represented here. The Afghan people are today better informed about their country and about the larger world than in any time in their history. Again, the staff here at the GMIC have played an important role to make this possible.
In closing, let me just add that the work is by no means complete. Our joint efforts, along with your government, to improve Afghan security, governance and development must be supported by effective communications at all levels.
We know from our own national experience that democracy is an evolving process. Building strong national institutions is an ongoing challenge and our joint work to improve government communications must continue. My government is proud to be one of the strong supporters of the GMIC. In the months and years ahead we hope these efforts will be expanded to further strengthen communications departments across the government and throughout the provinces as is already begun.
Based on what we have seen and heard here already today, that process is off to a great start!
Congratulations to the staff of the GMIC for the good work you have done, and for what I know you will continue to do in the months and years ahead.