Shari Nijman and Ng Yuk-hang
9 July 2024
Richard Schuster
9 July 2024

Matin Sarfraz

Afghan journalist covers climate change in his new adopted home

Matin meeting with local Afghan media in Kunduz province

When Abdul Matin Sarfraz (MJ 2013) graduated from the JMSC, he had a dream of rebuilding his home country through education and journalism. But he was forced to flee Afghanistan when the Taliban targeted him. 

In his adopted new home of Canada, Matin has now focused on covering another important issue: climate change. 

Matin first received a bachelor’s degree in law from Takhar University in Afghanistan. But after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Matin had a dream of building the emerging Afghan media community. 

In 2004, he co-founded Sada-e-Watan, the first independent weekly newspaper in Kunduz province.

Matin also worked with various local Afghan media, such as Pajhwok News Agency and Radio Sada-e-Azadi Shamal, and later with international media outlets, including the New York Times, Reuters news agency, German magazine Der Spiegel and the German Press Agency (dpa).

In 2012, he left for Hong Kong to study at the JMSC on full scholarship.

When Matin graduated in 2013, he wanted to become more than just a journalist. He aspired to be an agent of knowledge transfer and a catalyst for change in the Afghan media industry and journalist community.

Matin believed the core issue with Afghanistan’s education lay with schools and teachers relying on outdated textbooks, making classes lack any fresh perspective.

Matin attending a journalism workshop in Kabul

Matin and his family, including his Canadian-born son, Benjamin, the youngest of the four children

“Here in Hong Kong, every day they are coming with new information,” he said in an interview with the JMSC in 2013. “Students are encouraged and teachers give students a chance to talk a lot.”

After returning to Afghanistan, Matin co-founded and led Rasany, an independent daily newspaper. He also served as the deputy director for the Afghanistan Cultural and Media Foundation in Kunduz, where he participated in training young Afghan journalists.

Matin fled Afghanistan after he was targeted by the Taliban, who took control of the country in 2021.

Matin ended up in Canada, where he received a fellowship specifically designed to help newcomer journalists integrate into the country’s media. During his fellowship year at the National Observer, an online digital publication in Canada, he produced over 100 articles, tackling important issues like climate change, the environment, fossil fuels, and social justice.

In his report titled, “Is Climate Change Good for Insurgent Groups?”, Matin wrote how climate change contributed to the recruitment of insurgents in Afghanistan. 

He is also proud of his interview with the Hong Kong-born Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, who has never owned a car, opts instead to bike or take transit around town. The story gives readers a chance to learn about her climate goals for Canada’s largest city. 

After his fellowship ended, Matin was offered a full-time job as climate reporter at the National Observer. 

But he has not forgotten his old dream. “The original vision and mission of playing a role in developing independent Afghan media remains close to my heart today,” he said.

Matin attending a journalism workshop in Kabul

Matin and fellow graduates on the JMSC graduation day

“I still hope that one day there will be peace in Afghanistan, allowing me to play a role in developing independent Afghan media, training new journalists in the field, and writing about Afghanistan.”

In the meantime, his immediate focus is taking care of his family, including his youngest Canadian-born child. 

As a father, he has a simple wish: “to see my children flourish in a safe and stable environment” — something that he himself did not have a chance to experience.