Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) is an independent Afghan news agency founded during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1982. We distribute news reports from our XX correspondents in towns and cities throughout Afghanistan. AIP takes pride in its professional reporting standards, cross-checking all of our information from at least three sources. We have maintained our independence by financing our journalism entirely through our commercial activities. We have refused all funding by any government, non-government organization, western or Arab institutions.
AIP was founded in Peshawar by Muhammad Yaqoub Sharafat at a time when almost no resources existed to provide reliable news coverage from inside Afghanistan under the Soviet occupation. The agency has continued its work through the many chapters of Afghanistan’s conflicts since then, and you can read its full history below.
A HISTORY OF AFGHAN ISLAMIC PRESS
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 25, 1979, the Afghan people responded with a national uprising and Jihad (Holy struggle) against the Red Army. The Soviet troops replied to this mass uprising with merciless bombing of innocent Afghan people, mass killings and a bloodbath. Violence became order of the day.
Groups of “Mujahideen” (meaning those who participate in jihad) lined up against the invading army and created history by displaying disciplined resistance. They continued their sacrifices steadily for almost 10 years, until February 1989, when the occupation troops were forced to withdraw from the war-ravaged country.
During these years, there was a dearth of free and independent media to report reality and facts from inside the country. The Soviets permitted only pro-Soviet media, including TASS news agency, the daily Pravda and other communist newspapers to be present. These organs reported in favor of the invading Red Army.
The only Afghan news source was the state-owned news agency, Bakhtar. It gave reports of events sometimes, but in a biased way. It used to declare Mujahideen as “miscreants” and “trouble-makers.”
Keeping in view the significance and urgent need of a free media to counter the invaders’ propaganda war, Muhammad Yaqoub Sharafat, who put his share in the Caravan, struggling against Soviet Forces, established Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) in August 1982 in the northwestern Pakistani border city of Peshawar. Peshawar was a natural choice because it was then a center for Afghan refugees, Mujahideen and organizations.
AIP started its regular news service from a scratch on September 1, 1982. While such institutions were desperately needed at that critical juncture, many people considered it a useless effort and did not lend any support to this nascent news agency.
Gathering of Information
AIP started its work as the Russian invasion and the popular resistance were at a climax. The agency collected information from Peshawar-based Mujahideen groups who used to keep contacts with their commanders at frontlines through wireless system. Aware that the Mujahideen parties often gave exaggerated information, AIP also interviewed eyewitnesses to events, including travelers arriving from the scene of news events, to verify the information.
The agency also monitored news bulletins of the Afghan government’s Radio Kabul. AIP’s only worker, Sheen Gul Khan Mudadyar, was at the time assigned the duties to monitor radio news.
It was truly a humble start, as the private news agency could not afford fax or other electronic communications systems. The news agency had no equipment besides a bicycle owned by its director and a telephone at its office.
Despite these limits, AIP’s focus on verifying the information in its news reports built it a reputation for reliability. This attracted subscribers, including the Islamabad bureaus of international news agencies such as Reuters, AP, AFP, VOA, BBC, DPA and UPI. AIP gave its news accounts to them, free of charge, via telephone.
On every Tuesday a meeting of western diplomats used to be held at Islamabad which later on released information to journalists about the latest situation in Afghanistan. The meeting often confirmed AIP news reports which the agency had released two or three days earlier. This largely helped introduced the news agency to foreign diplomats and newsmen.
After the withdrawal of USSR forces from Afghanistan on February 15, 1989, AIP continued its work during the regime of Dr. Najibullah.
When Dr. Najib’s administration was overthrown and Mujahideen groups took control of Kabul, AIP was the first to break the news of the power-sharing formula agreed upon by seven Mujahideen groups at Peshawar on April 24, 1992. According to that formula, the Mujahideen groups unanimously appointed Professor Sibghatullah Muhjadidi as Afghan president for a short term.
At this critical moment, everyone was expecting that there would be no more fighting in Afghanistan, but soon after Peshawar Accord, factional fighting started among Mujahideen groups at Kabul. AIP was again in the forefront in most of its reports. This was the time when the news agency gained wide acclaim among Islamabad-based foreign news bureaus by breaking fresh news stories from the frontlines.
Mujahideen groups were still confronting each other when the Taliban movement emerged. and a man arrived at Pakistan from Kandahar reported to AIP about the emergence of student militia movement. As per our criteria, when AIP confirmed the news of Taliban creation from three of its dependable sources, the report was then released to international media on October 12, 1994. The creation of this new front in Afghanistan again got attention from the world’s media organizations.
Taliban Movement and AIP reporting
In November 8, 1994, the Taliban took control of Kandahar province. As the Taliban expanded into other provinces, the Mujahideen groups in Kabul continued their factional fighting. AIP continued focusing on both sides and getting reports from two fronts at a time by telephone or through wireless system. It even extended its contacts to Tajikistan to report on the version of Afghan Northern Alliance leaders who were staying there.
On September 26, 1996, Taliban took control of the Afghan capital and AIP was again first breaking the news. Before this, the news agency already had reported the fall of Chaharsiab, near Kabul, which was the headquarters of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a prominent Afghan factional leader.
Under the Taliban’s rule, AIP released reports of Taliban clashes and skirmishes, and the activities of the Northern Alliance, which was opposing the Taliban in the north of Afghanistan. The agency also interviewed the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, and the Northern Alliance’s top commander, Ahmad Shah Masood.
During this period, the international media returned to Kabul, having good contacts with Taliban government. Under these circumstances, it was a challenge for AIP to collect information by telephone and release confirmed reports quickly to compete other media organizations.
9/11 and AIP
On October 7, 2001 the American aircraft started bombing Kabul. Keeping in view the factor of competition, AIP continued its struggle to give fast and verified reports about the activities of Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants, plus the American-led coalition force’s attacks, its effects on Afghan society and the point of view of Taliban militia. The prompt release of information again enabled AIP to get the attention of foreign media and the journalists covering new developments in Afghanistan. During this time news stories were only moving around Taliban Movement, however, the AIP once again continued breaking reports from Kabul, Herat, Ningarhar, Northern provinces and other parts of the country.
It attracted more subscribers among news-hungry but standard-conscious international news agencies, newspapers and TV channels like BBC World Service, BBC Monitoring, NHK, China News Agency, Asahi TV, Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo broadcasting service, Bloomberg, Fuji TV, Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun, Radio Free Europe, Pakistan’s state-run radio, TV channels and Sadda News.
A digital telephone system was started in Afghanistan in the last days of the Taliban government. Apart from that, Thuraya satellite phone services were functional, but communication problems were still prevailing because there was no organized, national phone system. In November 2001, when Taliban were ousted of power, the Thuraya telephone system was established in most of the areas in Afghanistan. It helped AIP to cover inaccessible and remote areas of the country.
Being the first independent and free news agency, AIP registered itself with newly established Afghan Information and Culture Ministry at Kabul. It has been working continuously since its establishment and never stopped its work even for a single day. The agency fulfilled its initial aims of countering Russian propaganda, informing the world community of Russian forces’ atrocities and promoting Mujahideen resistance. The agency is proud that its performance makes it still a reputed and trustworthy news-gathering organization among the world’s popular media.
Confirmation of News
Since the very outset, AIP has been focusing on verification of its information. It checks and cross checks information received from Afghanistan from at least three sources. This task is complicated not only by poor communications systems in the war-devastated country, but also by the lack of press freedom there.
Still, AIP’s founder and director time and again advises his staff that, if any doubt exists regarding the truth of a news item, it should not be released to the international media. For a professional journalist, it was indeed a daunting task to confirm news at Peshawar while dealing with thousands of exaggerated reports coming daily from Afghanistan, where every group has regularly claimed victories and the inflicting of casualties on rivals in the years-long factional fighting. Separating the factual reports from the exaggerated news and rough and overstated information was difficult in such an unruly atmosphere.
However, AIP has accomplished this task over the years, which is why it is still successfully and proudly functioning with a lot of credibility.
Funding of AIP
Especially in southwestern Asia where truly independent news organizations are quite few, it may be a surprise that AIP has never been funded by any government, non-government organization, western institutions or any Arab organization during the Jihad or afterward. In fact, many other news organizations in this region have depended on one or another of these types of funding.
AIP used to provide its service free of cost in its early years. But as operational costs and its workload increased, it fixed a nominal monthly subscription fee for the media organizations which had found it useful.
Current working procedures of AIP
As in the past, Afghan Islamic Press is releasing credible and authentic news reports about every changing moment in Afghanistan, which makes it a focal point of international media organizations. Despite the fact that news agencies can collect news from any corner of Afghanistan, international news agencies consider AIP as a trusted organization and they are subscribing to its service on monthly payment basis. Afghan Islamic Press provides fresh and authentic news reports to its subscribers in three languages: English, Urdu and Pashto.
Although it has limited financial resources compared to other news agencies, AIP’s tradition of providing confirmed and breaking news has given it a distinctive position acknowledged by accredited media men.
Afghan Islamic Press launched its website after 23 years of experience in this field, with the commitment to be a step ahead of its other competitors by publishing authentic, fresh and breaking news. It is hoped that the dedicated workers of this independent organization, launched during the USSR invasion of Afghanistan at the height of Cold War, would continue its high standard of work to maintain it a successful organization as a symbol of glory of the Afghan Jihad.