Inside Afghanistan: Mellissa Fung on Reporting from One of the World’s Most Fragile States

Date: November 15, 2014

Former CBC journalist, UBC School of Journalism alumna Mellissa Fung has brought Afghanistan’s stories home to Canadians – even after being abducted while on assignment at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul. Drawing on her experiences reporting from the region over the last seven years, Mellissa shares what she has learned about Afghanistan, about its people, and about taking on a foreign assignment in one of the world’s most fragile countries.

Beginning with her powerful footage on Afghanistan under Taliban’s rule, Mellissa’s talk was inspiring. I confessed that my only impression of Afghanistan was how messy, fragile, and dangerous it was as a country, and my impression mainly comes from mainstream newspapers. However, Mellissa brought us “the other side” of the story, that is, women’s general condition is indeed improving and women are regaining many of their rights in Afghanistan.

Under the Taliban’s rule, women are banned from receiving education, going to the streets without the company of a man, and they had to cover their full body in public. Nowadays, many women can make it to schools; women shelters have been established almost in every city in Afghan; a female artist succeeded in holding the first gallery in downtown Kabul showcasing women’s art; 30 percent of government officials in Afghan are female and the city has a female provincial official. In fact, different from the desperate situations presented in mainstream media, local Afghan people, especially women, are quite optimistic about their future. The only thing they worried, according to Mellissa, is that the outside world would forget about them in the post-Afghanistan War era.

It is interesting to look at the Afghan issues from a female reporter’s perspective. While many would question whether Canada and other Western countries’ involvement in Afghanistan was worth it or not, Mellissa suggested that situations in the area are making actual progress. Based on her experience and exchange with Canadian soldiers, Mellissa argued that the question itself was dismissing all the efforts and losses that those soldiers put into the war. Therefore, when we tried to ask this question, we should always look at the whole picture.

As much as the change in Afghanistan is inspiring, I think it is good to keep a critical mind on the development of Afghanistan as well. Some issues are especially worth investigating: Have the international fundings and resources been delivered effectively to those in need or have them ended in government officials’ pocket? A large part of Afghan’s economic development depends on its opium cultivation; would that cause a problem to the local and international society? What can be done to change the production structure or local economy development models in Afghanistan?