If the role of a free press is to shine a light on corruption, there’s no darker place than the inner sanctums of Kabul in war-torn Afghanistan. Where else do you have government leaders flying out of the country with $52 million in cash in their luggage? The situation there is so bad, that one Wikileaks cable described local corruption’s “pervasive nature, its overwhelming scale, and the dispiriting challenge it poses to American officials.” While journalists in the free world can discuss the problem till their red in the face, the true challenge is that there is no significant local press to ferret out the overwhelming problems and shine a little light on how elected officials really operate there.

That may all change, however, thanks to San Jose State University. The school has just received a $1.22 million State Department grant to train a new generation of Afghan journalists at Herat University in western Afghanistan. The grant was facilitated by the Afghan Coalition, based in Fremont. According to the Coalition’s Mizgon Zahir Darby, “Right now there is a lot of bribery that’s occurring. There’s a lot of false statements that are being made in government but no one is reporting on it because people are one, fearful and number two, that the training is very limited in the country.”

The funding will be used to develop a journalism curriculum for use in Herat University and a series of websites for students from both countries, focusing on radio and television journalism from both countries to hone their reporting skills and share ideas across countries and cultures. Two professors from SJSU will also travel to Herat to help train their peers there.

While so much has been written recently about the death of journalism in the U.S., Mayor Chuck Reed noted “the importance of a free press to the development of a free Afghanistan.” After all, the pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword.
Read More at ABC 7.