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Journal on Afghanistan Opens Country to Scrutiny

A Swiss-based foundation is launching an independent journal to provide independent information about Afghanistan. The journal, called the Afghanistan Monitor, will focus on peacekeeping and security operations, as well as on international relief efforts.

The foundation, Media Action International, says it is crucial to have open scrutiny of recovery and peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan. This is one way, it says, to avoid what happened in countries like Somalia and Rwanda, where human rights violations continued and money geared for reconstruction was misused.

The executive director of Media Action International is Edward Girardet. He says the journal has two goals. It will inform the international community about what is happening in Afghanistan, but it also hopes to help Afghans themselves.

"We consider it a right for Afghans, for any population in a crisis zone, to know what is going on and that they have a right to know what the international community is doing. They have a right to know where the funding is going and they also have a right and the need to be part of the whole process. This is where we see media playing an important role," Mr. Girardet said.

The group plans to produce 22 issues a year of the Afghanistan Monitor, in print and on the worldwide web. An English print version will be offered to subscribers in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It will be made available, free, on the Internet.

Mr. Girardet says an Afghan version of the Monitor will be published in Dari and Pashto once the international version is up and running. He says if the money is available, this will be provided free-of-charge to all Afghan government ministries, agencies and non-governmental organizations.

He says it is necessary to convince those involved in recovery and peacekeeping operations that information can be as important as humanitarian aid and reconstruction. "Information can, in fact, save the international community probably millions, tens of millions, even more. When you are looking at issues such as health whereby you can probably prevent, if the information is acted upon, you can probably prevent a lot of the disease in the towns, in the rural areas, solely through information which, in the long run does not cost that much and is far cheaper than actually having to have active medicine which is not as good as prevention," Mr. Girardet said.

He says the publication, in addition to monitoring current operations, also plans to highlight issues that require greater public scrutiny.