Radio for Peace, Democracy and Human Rights: Afghanistan
A documentation by Dr Hansjoerg Biener
peace radio site
© Dr Hansjoerg Biener
0112, updated 0703
Comments and contributions are welcome. Material may be re-printed but a complimentary copy of the publication is expected.
Afghanistan
 

 
 

 

Afghanistan has long been a country of war and thus a target area of a wide range of national and international broadcasting. From the beginning of their resistance against the Soviet invasion regional rebels also used radio transmitters based both in Afghanistan itself and outside. Even the Government used outside transmitters based in the Soviet Union to cover the country because of the constant security threats against its national infrastructure.

With the Soviets out of the country civil war continued. In June 1996 the Taliban were able to capture the capital Kabul and established their rule in much of the country. Their strict views of Islam were also reflected in the media: Women were removed from journalism and broadcasting into private life. Non-religious music was replaced by religious chants, and television was banned altogether. It was only in the North that women remained present in the resistance media and radio and television also played a limited role in entertainment. The name of the Radio Afghanistan was changed to Radio Voice of Shariat. The station did broadcast songs, but without accompaniment. In the songs the Taliban played during their time of rule, the Northern Alliance was described as un-Islamic, and fighting them was called the holy war. The Afghan music culture was preserved by musicians in exile and available to parts of the exile community by internet radio.

Radio Voice of Shariat went off the air and Radio Afghanistan regained its existence after September 11 when the Northern Alliance forces, backed by the US and their allies captured Kabul in 2001. Radio Afghanistan resumed broadcasting under its original name, but even without the US attacks on the broadcasting system, some 20 years of civil war have left the media infrastructure in ruins. International aid workers also believe that independent media could help to check that future Afghan governments spend the billions of dollars expected in foreign aid in a responsible and transparent way. Because only a small number of people have access to print media and TV, radio is the only source of external information and seen as the only effective defence against extremism. With 96 percent of the households in Afghanistan having no access to electricity, people have to rely on battery driven sets. Nonetheless radio has its place in the daily routines even in remote areas. There are 47 radio stations broadcasting on AM and FM bands from and within Afghanistan. According to Sanjar Qiam, a radio network coordinator for Internews, 27 of these radio stations are independent stations, part of a Network support through Internews and 16 are state regional and provincial radio stations.

The US took a special interest in driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan. This was also reflected by a Radio Free Afghanistan in Dari and Pashtu from 1985 to 1993. The service was based at Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and was closed in 1993 as part of a general restructuring of RFE/RL operations, when the station was in danger of being closed altogether having accomplished its mission of counteracting communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe.


Iran as the first partner at work
The government of Iran has been closely involved with Kabul broadcasting since it went back on the air in November 2001. Among the many countries pledging support for the reconstruction of the economic, industrial and agricultural infrastructures of Afghanistan, Iran was the first to deliver. One of the early donations was a 50-kW radio transmitter, soon afterwards more radio and TV equipment was imported and is now also used for retransmitting Iranian programmes.
Iran's regional radio also has increased programming in languages Afghans speak. Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting's Mashhad station doubled its broadcasting slots in  November 2001 and increased the duration of the transmissions to 11 hours  a day. These transmissions reach nearly all of western Afghanistan,  and they can be heard as far away as Kabul. Its twice-daily  Dari-language news program is 30 minutes long. A survey of  the 46 news broadcasts from 17 April-10 May 2002 revealed three recurring  international themes: anti-U.S. and anti-Israel commentaries and reports how much Iran is doing for Afghanistan. There are four recurring domestic Afghan themes: refugee repatriation; news about Herat  Province and promotion of its governor, Ismail Khan; drug control; and loya jirga news. The return of refugees is an important subject for Iran,  which hosts almost 2 million Afghan refugees and encourages the Afghans to go back. A 24 April report that Iran is to send home 700,000 Afghan refugees during the year was followed  by a report that with foreign assistance the Herat  Province health department is to open a clinic for refugees and  residents. The attention paid to Ayatollah Mohammad Assef Mohseni of the predominantly Shia Harakat-i Islami movement is noteworthy. Mohseni gets more coverage than other Shia leaders in  Afghanistan. This is unexpected, because he was estranged from Iran following his 1979 imprisonment by the revolutionary authorities, while Iran helped create and has been closer to the Hizb-i Wahdat, a Shia party led by Planning Minister Mohammad Mohaqeq. (RFE/RL Iran Report 13 May via RFE/RL Media Matters  17 May 2002 shortened)

rebuilding the transmitter infrastructure
With US Government aid a VSAT satellite system was established at Radio-Television Afghanistan in Kabul to provide satellite links to short wave stations in Norway and the UAE that rebroadcast programmes providing information about the Loya Jirga process.
Residents in Kabul, the capital city, and some other cities do have a choice of FM programmes, but these  have a limited geographical range by the nature of FM propagation. Until now, radio audiences in rural areas of the mountainous country have listened to domestic and international programmes primarily on short wave. According to US surveys, some 80 per cent of men in Afghanistan own a shortwave radio. So, international radio can still play a major role.
In May 2003,  two 400 kilowatt transmitters installed by the US-Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) provided for the return of nationwide medium-wave coverage.  One transmitter is used by Radio Afghanistan, the country's national broadcaster, using its traditional medium wave frequency of 1107 kHz. The other transmitter broadcasts the joint Dari and Pashtu programme stream of BBG's Voice of America (www.voanews.com) and R Free Afghanistan (www.azadiradio.org) on  1296 kHz. The AM transmitters, which cost about $10.5 million, are located at a site outside Kabul. In addition, the BBG has installed FM transmitters - one for the Afghan Governmentt, the other for BBG - in Kabul. Plans are under way to install additional FMs in Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad.

For about a decade, Baltic Media Centre has supported the editorial, political and economic autonomy of media in the Baltic States, Russia and Poland in order to help them assume an active and independent role in the democratic debate. In November 2001 BMC representatives - in co-operation with Article 19 and the Danish IMS1 organisation - went on a fact finding mission to Pakistan in order to establish the immediate needs and possibilities for forming an Afghan radio which was supposed to broadcast information on the emergency aid and refugee situation in the country. Due to the rapid development of the war in Afghanistan it was decided to move ahead to initiate a project to promote democracy, peace and stability in Afghanistan itself. Based on experience from media projects in Europe and the former USSR, BMC approached EU's Rapid Reaction Mechanism for support, and the EU has donated 234,759 Euro for the development of an independent public radio service in the country.
BMC’s Chief Consultant Waseem Mahmood and Head of Training Charles Fletcher travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in January 2002 to establish an agreement with Radio Kabul and a number of local journalists on creating a public service programme which editorially will be independent from the many contesting parties in Afghanistan. A first one hour programme, transmitted on Radio Afghanistan beginning on February 25, is produced and presented by a 20-strong team of Afghan journalists recently recruited in Kabul. "Good morning Afghanistan" will initially last an hour but producers say it will later be extended to a two-hour show. The organisation say it will include news, sport, travel and weather information as well as features and general stories from around the country. The objective of the project is to train local journalists in how to produce balanced and professional radio which in a longer perspective will enable them to become important participants in a democratic and pluralistic media landscape. The editor of the program will be Barry Salaam, an Afghan journalist who recently returned to Afghanistan after a year in exile in Pakistan. In order to get the show on the air, BMC had to buy new equipment for the Radio Afghanistan studio in Kabul, as the old equipment had been stripped from the offices. Despite the fall of the Taliban government and the presence of international peacekeepers in Kabul, BMC has enough security concerns to have hired guards for the station.
After the first three months it is intended to establish a co-operation between Afghan radios from different parts of the country which also means different ethnic and political radios. These radios will then in turn form the core for the creation of a national public service radio broadcaster.
 

continued US interest
On 7 November 2001, the US House of Representatives passed a law on setting up the new "Radio Free Afghanistan", on 13 December 2001 the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill that would establish and fund the station, and on 10 January 2002, President George W. Bush signed a measure approving funding of 19.5m dollars to launch the broadcasts. 15 members of the Afghan Service are based at Prague, with up to 20 stringers reporting from Afghanistan's eight largest cities. Afghan Service stringers will also be based in Islamabad, Tehran, Tashkent, Dushanbe, Ashgabat, Bishkek, Almaty, New Delhi, Ankara, Moscow, London, New York, and Washington. The Afghan service can also rely on free-lancers in the Tajik, Uzbek, Persian, and Turkmen services of the station.
On 30 January 2002 (13.00 h UTC) Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty, Inc. started broadcasting to Afghanistan in Dari and Pashtu. Although there had been much political debate urging for such a service, the actual launch was very quiet. President Thomas A. Dine noted on the occasion that RFE-RL already has a sizable audience among ethnic minorities listening to broadcasts in Farsi, Uzbek, Turkmen, and Tajik. Radio Free Afghanistan initially provided two hours of original broadcasts to Afghanistan daily, plus one hour of repeat programming. The first 30 minutes of each broadcast are in Pashtu, followed by 30 minutes in Dari. On 1 March 2002, Radio Free Afghanistan doubled the transmission hours from three to six hours per day. RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine hailed the increase as "another indication of the commitment of RFE/RL and its sister organizations in U.S. international broadcasting to help build a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan through the medium of news and information."
On 15 May 2002, RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine announced the expansion of Radio Free Afghanistan's total daily air time in the Dari and Pashtu languages from 6.5 to 10.5 hours. The expanded broadcasts will be available initially on FM in  the Kabul area and on RFE/RL's website www.rferl.org/realaudio,  but expanded shortwave, satellite, and AM broadcasts will follow in  the near future. RFE/RL Director of Broadcasting Jeffrey Trimble said that the additional air time will be used to provide expanded  news coverage on the hour and half-hour, as well as to offer more original programming. The programme’s existence was highlighted by a visit to the Prague Broadcast Center on 21 May by US first lady Laura Bush who also recorded a personal message to the Afghan people for broadcast on Radio Free Afghanistan and met with representatives of humanitarian organizations providing aid in Afghanistan. Accompanying Bush during her visit to RFE/RL were the U.S. and Afghan Ambassadors to the Czech Republic.

Nearly two thirds of Afghan radio listeners are tuning in to Radio Free Afghanistan, according to the results of a survey conducted for RFE/RL by the Broadcasting Board of Governors. InterMedia Survey Institute conducted the survey for the BBG from August 17 to October 2, 2004, interviewing 3,169 adults 15 and older in Kabul, Herat, Balkh, Nangarhar and Kandahar Provinces in Afghanistan. The margin of error was plus/minus 1.7 percent.
The survey showed a nationwide weekly listening rate of 61.6 percent to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan broadcasts in Dari and Pashto, a rate that rises to 70 percent in the capital city of Kabul. RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine noted especially Radio Free Afghanistan's reputation for objectivity, professionalism and its attention to overcoming ethnic differences: "We are proud of what Radio Free Afghanistan has achieved in the past three years. Our emphasis on helping the entire country rise from the chaos of a quarter century of war is clearly appreciated by our listeners." When asked about the reliability of the news and information broadcast, strong majorities in the survey considered RFA and VOA to be trustworthy. Asked about general issues, 54 percent said they are favorable inclined toward the USA, 64 percent say things in Afghanistan are headed in the right direction, and, when asked to name the first thing that comes to mind when speaking of the USA, 40 percent said U.S. support for reconstruction of Afghanistan. (Press Release 10 December 2004)
 

BBC World Service Trust to assist Afghan Media
On 8 February 2002, the BBC World Service Trust started work in Kabul. The registered charity established by the BBC World Service channels funds from outside sources for the use of the media for development in developing countries and countries in transition. Building on its previous work in the region, the Trust and the BBC's Afghan Education Projects in Peshawar commenced a series of 15 minute 'lifeline' programmes in November 2001, targeting refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Afghanistan. These programmes were broadcast twice daily in Pashto and Persian on the BBC's Pashto and Persian services and were also supported by DFID.
The UK Government's Department for International Development now has given a 1m pound grant to support immediate actions in the next three months. These will focus on five areas: Providing equipment to Radio/TV Afghanistan for two radio studios and to stabilize radio production; Training more than 150 journalists in Kabul and the regions; Working in partnership with the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) to assess future needs and the foundations for a regulatory framework for the media; Production of radio programmes on the BBC World Service in Pashto and Persian on the `Loya Jirga' - the traditional council which will define the future constitution of Afghanistan; Open a Media Resource Centre for Afghan journalists. 
The team is led by William Reeve, previously the BBC World Service Correspondent in Kabul, who survived the US bombing of the Al-Jazeera [Qatar-based Arabic- language satellite TV channel] office in Kabul, when next door being interviewed live on BBC World television. The team includes Meena Bakhtash from the Persian Service, Shir Aqa Karimi of the Pashto Service, former BBC News Editor Nick Nugent and Senior Trainer, Jackie Chambers. A number of experts from the BBC and other organizations including the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) and Article 19 will work closely with the AIA to assess priorities for the reconstruction of the media over the coming months. They will address topics such as broadcast policy, freedom of speech, gender and educational needs. [3]
At a donors' conference, the BBC trust  proposed a US$165 million project aimed at the reconstruction of Afghan Radio and TV. The primary objective of a two year plan would be the establishment of an independent TV and radio service to be modelled on BBC itself.

Afghanistan's interim administration overturned the state monopoly on radio and television in February, but so far no Afghan producer has managed to raise the funds to establish an independent network. On 9 February Hamed Karzai, chairman of Afghanistan's interim administration, signed a law providing for private radio and TV stations to be set up for the first time in Afghanistan. Any Afghan citizen has the right to own a private television or radio station, but not foreigners. Restrictions apply only in four cases:
1. Material which insults Islam, and other religions and faiths.
2. Material which insults individuals or violates media ethics.
3. Publication of articles with offensive and indecent pictures which might corrupt public opinion.
4. Publication of articles with the aim of weakening Afghanistan's army.
On the other hand, the media law was subject to severe national and international criticism. The 20 February "Press Law Edit" was the subject of a detailed 9 May critique by the Ronald Koven of the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC). The critique includes the following: "It is puzzling and alarming...to note the deafening silence from Washington and other democratic nations with regard to the almost surreptitious adoption in Afghanistan of a 'new' press law that is actually rife with restrictions and prohibitions more appropriate to a dictatorship than to a developing democracy." Afghanistan's interim administration of Hamid Karzai has slightly revised a very restrictive draft press law and put it in force by a decree dated 20 February and signed by Karzai. Despite some editing, the edict's thrust is virtually the same as that of an earlier draft law. "The edict creates a rather elaborate press and periodical registration and licensing system that is subject to the obvious abuses inherent in such arrangements, along with what amounts to licensing of individual journalists," says Koven. The text creates "a set of extraneous, largely unpredictable problems by stating that any offenses not provided for within the law in question shall be subject to the Sharia [Islamic law]." The "problems are with the philosophy of press freedom as well as specific arrangements." (World Press Freedom Committee, 9 May)

Dissenting policies in Herat Province 
Deputy Minister of Information and Culture Abdul Hamid Mobarez said on 26 March that the Afghan Transitional Administration is "incensed by the way in which newsmen are treated in Herat" and demanded that authorities in that province allow reporters to "resume their work," "The Kabul Times" reported. Mobarez said laws guaranteeing press freedoms in Afghanistan are in full force, and he urged Herat Province Governor Ismail Khan to "revise his attitude and restore freedom atmosphere in the ancient city of Herat." Alluding to reports that Ismail Khan has targeted journalists critical of his administration, Mobarez asked why other officials should be immune from criticism when Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, for instance, accepts it. Mobarez was responding to reports of the assault and detention -- allegedly on Ismail Khan's orders -- of a reporter for RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on 19 March, "The Kabul Times" reported. Ismail Khan has labeled as "traitors" Radio Free Afghanistan reporter Ahmad Behzad and correspondents who have supported him, "The Kabul Times" reported.  Afghan Information and Culture Minister Sayyed Makhdum Rahin expressed concern over the Behzad case and the ensuing protests of other journalists, Radio Afghanistan reported on 27 March. Rahin said he is in contact with authorities in Herat Province to ensure that journalists are free to carry out their work. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)
RFE/RL correspondent Ahmad Behzad on 7 April was again forced to leave the western Afghan city of Herat, under renewed pressure from Herat Province Governor Ismail Khan and only days after receiving assurances from Ismail Khan that he and his fellow journalists would be allowed to freely report the news, according to a 9 April RFE/RL press release. Behzad, a reporter for RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, first left Herat with several other journalists on 24 March, to protest the 19 March verbal and physical assault on Behzad by Ismail Khan and his security chief, Nasim Alawi. The journalists returned to Herat from Kabul on 3 April, after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on 28 March and after Ismail Khan told media outlets that he was "not against any Afghan or foreign journalist, and the reporters can be assured of their safety in our town, and can
report on life in this country any way they wish." One day after Behzad returned to Heart on 3 April, Ismail Khan condemned Western broadcasters to Afghanistan, accusing them of trying to destabilize the country and threatening them with death in a speech delivered in Herat to the Islamic Council for Solidarity of the Peoples of Afghanistan, according to the Herat newspaper "Ittifaq-i Islam." In a related development, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Dari Service reporter Abdol Hadi Ghaffari was fired by his superiors in Mashhad, Iran, because he took part in a journalists' protest over Behzad's treatment, according to a 6 April report by the Herat News Center. 
[1] Baltic Media Centre, Skippergade 8, DK-3740 Svaneke, Denmark,  Tel: +45 7020 2002,  Fax: +45 7020 2001,  bmc@bmc.dk
[2] RFE/RL Press Release, 30 January 2002, abridged
[3] BBC press release, London, in English 8 February 2002, abridged 
 

Giving a voice to women

Given the prevalence of illiteracy in general and even more among women, radio offers one of the most powerful ways to inform and educate them. But in a country, where women have been barred from broadcasting both by the traditional role models and the Taliban government, having women voice their opinion in local broadcasting is particularly difficult. It has always been very difficult for male journalists to interview women because they usually have no access to women's private spaces. At the same time, it was also difficult to hire women journalists to work at the radio station due to cultural restrictions and the location of the station itself: women simply were not allowed to go to that part of town.

The solution to the dilemma was a radio production unit for women separated from the male environment and the radio station. With funding from the Canadian International Development Agency  and the US Agency for International Development, the Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society (www.impacs.org) started to explore the opportunities and challenges of getting women involved in local broadcasting. The Canadian NGO undertook the establishment of a pilot project in Kabul that was to be extended to other independent radio stations where women did not yet have a strong role. A small studio is set up in a private home and in an accessible location, so women have their own space to produce their programs. A couple of computers and some tape recorders save programmes for later broadcast.

This model was first used in the capital Kabul and later in Logar. Logar is known to be a relatively conservative, predominantly Pashtun, area where women generally lead lives of isolation. The initial training workshop brought unexpected surprises. Since most women were not allowed to work outside of home and strong restrictions apply to speaking and appearing in public, only a small number of women was expected to participate. However, more than 25 women attended the first day of training and even more showed up the following days. Four women were selected from this group to be the founding members of the Logar Women's Radio Production Unit. In the two months following the initial training, the women produced seventeen radio programs.

IMPACS, in collaboration with the independent community radio station in Logar, Radio Milli Paigham, established a women's radio production unit in this community, based in part on the experience of Parwana in Kabul.  Reporters in Radio Milli Paigham were interested in having women's voices on the air and attracting more women listeners to the station. On 8 March 2004 (International Women's Day), Radio Zohra began operations in Kunduz. Within a few months this voice of local women grew from the original two hours to a six hours broadcast day. Radio Zohra is now on air daily from 10 until 16 h. Programming consists of in-house productions focusing on local concerns and featuring the voices of Kunduz women, as well as programmes produced by the Tanin Network (a network of pre-packaged programmes produced by various organizations including IMPACS Parwana Radio  Production Unit) and music. With this model, women are able to raise their voices in their own communities and women listeners have another reason to turn on their radios and learn about what's going on around them. (ww.comminit.com/pds32004/sld-9879.html)

In November 2004 the first trial broadcasts of Radio Quyash (the Sun) went on the air in the northern city of Maimana. After Radio Rabia Balkhi in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, Radio Sahar in western city of Herat and Radio Zuhra in the northeastern city of Kunduz, Quyash is the fourth female radio station initiated by local women. It counts as the only independent media outlet in troubled Maimana, the provincial capital of Faryab. While the state-run Radio Maimana is also broadcasting locally, local commanders and government officials means have a strong influence on  that its programmes. Quyash has an outreach of about 25 km into the Faryab province. It produces six hours of daily programming, mostly in the Uzbek language, with a 30 percent mixture of the Dari and Pashtu languages. According to Arefa Zareh, a school teacher and one of the seven local women running the new women's radio station in Maimana, the programmes cover news, humanitarian information and education, with an emphasis on women's issues.

Kabul campus FM on-air

07-05-2004 (UNESCO Kabul) Kabul University’s new campus FM radio station, media library and computer training and Internet centre for journalism students have been inaugurated as the highlight of UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day activities in Afghanistan. The new campus radio station, broadcasting on 106.7 MHz FM, is based in the University's Faculty of Journalism and will serve both as a training tool for journalism students and an educational out-reach voice for the University. The equipment for the radio station was funded by UNESCO .

The new media library for students and staff contains thousands of books received after a UNESCO global Internet appeal.  A significant book collection was donated by the international NGO, Freedom Forum, which had closed its reference library in London and offered the books to Kabul University. The collection was air-freighted to Afghanistan at the expense of the international broadcaster, CNN.

The inauguration ceremony, held on the 4th May, 2004 was officiated by the Minister of Higher Education, Sharif Fayez, the Rector of Kabul University, Mohammed Akbar Popal, the Dean of the Faculty of Journalism, Kazem Ahang, and UNESCO Country Director, Martin Hadlow. In opening the facilities, the Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Fayez, noted the value of the resources to journalism students in now enabling them to study both practical and theoretical aspects of their craft. The Rector of Kabul University, Professor Popal, and the Dean of the Faculty, Professor Ahang, recalled the situation two years ago when the Faculty premises were almost devoid of equipment and materials. In his address, UNESCO Kabul Director, Martin Hadlow, said that Kabul University journalism students were the editors, publishers and broadcasters of the future. "Their grounding in craft-skills and freedom of expression principles within the Faculty of Journalism will help to ensure high standards of reporting in the developing democratic environment of Afghanistan" he said.

Getting children involved

In the 2004 OneWorld / UNICEF competition “Children’s Lives, Children’s Voices”, for the best radio feature (1-5 minutes) produced by, for and with children., an Afghan production finished second. The runner-up in this category is Shahrak Atfal (Children’s City), by Internews Afghanistan. Produced by children aged 7 to 13, it is set in an ideal imagined city, and features an interactive radio, an invisible parrot, and a flying carpet.
To listen to all the entries go to: http://radio.oneworld.net/section/childrensvoices
 
Internews Radio / Salaam Watandar

David Trilling, Program Associate, Internews
Afghanistan, Baharistan, Karti-Parwan, Next to Haji Mir Ahmed Mosque, Kabul, 
Telephone +93-70-220-243, 
E-mail <david.trilling @ internews.org>
Internet: <www.internews.org>

-October 2004
0130-0200 UTC 11795 kHz (Armavir 250 kW, 110°) 
1330-1500 UTC 15195 kHz (Samara 250 kW, 140°)

November 2004-
0130-0300 UTC 7230 kHz (Dhabbaya  250 kW 45°)
1330-1500 UTC 17720 kHz (Rampisham 500 kW, 95°)

Internews® Network is an international non-profit organization that works to improve access to information for people around the world by fostering independent media and promoting open communications policies. Internews' programs are built on the conviction that providing people with access to diverse news and information empowers them to make their voices heard and to participate effectively in their communities. Internews Network has been charged with developing indigenous Afghan media with a focus on radio as part of USAID's Office of Transitional Initiatives efforts to rebuild the country. Additional grants come from  the European Community, the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, the United Nations Development Program and the German Foreign Ministry. Projects have primarily focused on local radio, creating a network of radio stations around the country and a production unit that produces several hours daily of informational and educational programming. Since February 2003, 29 new local stations have been launched around the country in partnership with local institutions. These stations receive programming via satellite from a Kabul-based production unit.

In June 2004 international listeners noted a new short wave programme identifying as Salaam Watandar in Pashto and Dari. In addition to local broadcasting some hours are made available on short wave radio for the rural population and those not yet served by an FM transmitter. Originally, the short wave broadcasts went out from Al Dhabbaya (United Arab Emirates), but on 1 October 2004 transmissions changed to Russian transmitters. The national programme of independent news and information is currently broadcast for three hours every day - 90 minutes in the morning and 90 minutes in the evening - using satellite link to transmitters and radio stations positioned across the country. Although InterNews, Salaam Watandaar was expected to close its short wave service on 15 October 2004 the programmes continue. The producers expect the service to run throughout the winter, but at this stage the transmissions are funded only for another month.

Salaam Watandar is down linked at VTC's Woofferton transmitting station in Shropshire, UK, before being fed to its Central London Control Room.  VTC distribute programming to its transmission sites for short wave coverage and to Eutelsat's Hotbird 6 satellite to feed the rebroadcast transmitters in Afghanistan.
The programme is heard on the Hotbird 6 satellite at 13 degrees east, 12597 MHz, vertical polarization, audio PID 2021. Internews expects the number of affiliate stations to reach 40 by the end of 2004 as new stations and existing state broadcasters join the network.

Only a few weeks before the start of Salaam Watandar,  Internews advertised a position for a recent graduate with business experience to work with the independent radio sector in Afghanistan for six months beginning June 1, 2004. The expert was to help station managers understand the concept of advertising in the Afghan context, how to present the station as an advertising vehicle to the international community for public service announcements, the local population for personal announcements and, where appropriate, possibilities for classic commercial advertising. In the Afghan context local radio is seen as a major factor in driving local markets, as most Afghans are illiterate, and unable to access market prices and product information in any other way. Internews laid the groundwork for this USAID-funded project with two years of training, program production and successful local station development in Afghanistan.

In the annual worldwide index of press freedom published by Reporters Without Borders in October 2004, Afghanistan is listed as no. 97 of 167 countries.
 
Another US Voice: Radio Solh (Radio Peace)
In Mid-October 2004 European short wave listeners heard a new programme for Afghanistan. Radio Solh broadcasts a programme of music popular in the region as well as announcements in Dari, Pashtu and other regional languages offering rewards for information about the whereabouts of Usamah Bin-Ladin and its network. 
So, obviously and despite its name, the new programme was a follow up to the information radio set up by US troops at the time of the Afghanistan invasion. Ironically, the name Radio Solh has been used previously in Afghanistan. A low- power station called Radio Solh in Jabal os Saraj (Jabalosraj) began broadcasting on 9 October 2001 on FM in Prawan province, north-west of Kabul. It had help from the French organization Droit de Parole.
schedule monitored in November 2004
0200-0500: 11810 kHz - 0700-1300 21620 kHz
1300-1500: 15265 kHz - 1500-1630 17710 kHz
All transmissions from Rampisham (500 kW, 80°)
schedule in January 2007
0200-1200: 11675 kHz (al-Dhabbaya 250 kW, 45°)
1200-1500: 15265 kHz (Rampisham 500 kW, 105°)
1500-1800  9875 kHz (Rampisham 500 kW, 105°)
schedule in May 2007
0200-0900: 11665 kHz (al-Dhabbaya 250 kW, 45°)
0900-1200: 11675 kHz (al-Dhabbaya 250 kW, 45°)
1200-1800: 17700 kHz (Rampisham 500 kW, 105°)
schedule winter 2007/08
1200-1500: 15265 
1500-1800: 9875

In March 2008, a native speaker provided the following information on the content of bilingual broadcast:
„The announcements and music are both in Dari (Afghan Persian) and Pushto. In fact an Indian Hindi film song was also played during the transmission time when I monitored. The major part of announcements and songs were in Dari. The announcements in Pushto during the transmission are translated are as follows:
‚Islam is a religion of peace. Taliban are misguided people. They are indulged in misinterpretation of Islam. They are killing innocent  people which include women and children. What kind of Islam is this. If you  have any information about people related to Taliban, please contact your nearest police station or Army unit.‘ It was observed that what was being said in Dari was also similar to the Pushto component of Radio  Solh.
The songs in Pushto and Dari were being played without announcing the name of singers which were mostly of Afghan origin and not known well in Pakistan, though I recognize the voices and songs of prominent  Pakistani Pushto singers, even if their names are not announced, which include Khayal Muhammad, Javed Akhter, Rahim Shah and female singers like Ms. Zarsanga, Ms Gulnar Begum, Ms Mahjabeen Qizilbash, Ms Mashooq Sultan,
 etc.“ (Aslam Javaid 10 March 2008 for Glenn Hauser’s DX Listening Digest)
"I have noted thru monitoring Radio Solh from last few days that the  same program is repeated daily as has been observed by many international listeners as well. Coming to Dari music I must admit that it has more catchy tunes as compared to Pushto. Historically Pushton (Pushto speaking) society has been more conservative as compared to Dari. Music was not encouraged by Pushton society and it does not have an established tradition of  classical music. Most of Pushto music is folk music."
(Aslam Javaid 12 March 2008 for Glenn Hauser’s DX Listening Digest)
Currently, two Radio Solh transmitters located within Afghanistan broadcast two different programmes on the same frequency.  At least outside Afghanistan this results to mutual interference. The program content of one station was back to back Dari Music and two short announcements in Dari about the efforts of Government to restore peace in eastern provinces bordering Pakistan. While the other station played Pushto and Dari Music with short announcements in Pushto and  Dari.  (Aslam Javaid 31 March 2008 for Glenn Hauser’s DX Listening Digest)
 
 
 
 

New Afghan Radio Station Opens in Remote Central Highlands

(November 4, 2004) Twenty-four hours drive from Kabul in good weather, a new radio station is broadcasting to a community never before served by independent or local media. Opened on September 3 with support from Internews Afghanistan, Radio Nili Day Kundi serves people of the remote newly-formed province of
Day Kundi in Afghanistan's central highlands.
Nili Day Kundi broadcasts 10 hours of programming every day, including both Salaam Watandar, the national cycle of programming produced by Internews in Kabul, and in-house productions. Four trained radio personnel work at the station, including one woman who works as an announcer.
The station is the brainchild of Mohammed Hussain, a native of Day Kundi, and recently Director of Arts for youth and children at the Ministry of Education. He gave up this position to move back home. "Day Kundi is a remote province," he says, "I wanted to make a difference here. The creation of such a station will help inform
people about health, educational and cultural issues so people can better help themselves."
The head of the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission visited the new station on her visit to Day Kundi and said she was very happy about the opening of this station in such a deprived place that is so difficult to access. She asked the station to broadcast human rights programs.
Funded by the United States Agency for International Development, Radio Nili Day Kundi joins the Internews-assisted network of 24 radio stations around Afghanistan, broadcasting to over seven million
people. (www.internews.org/news/2004/20041103_afghan.html)

New UNHCR radio programme for Afghan refugees in Pakistan
In November 2004, th United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) started a twice-weekly 10 minute programme for Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The radio programme is prepared by a four-member team of Radio Pakistan Quetta led by Sohail Jaffar and broadcast on Radio Pakistan's Quetta frequencies. It includes recorded interviews with repatriating refugees, UNHCR staff handling repatriation centres in Pakistan-Afghanistan, and Afghan officials in key positions speaking on the latest developments in Afghanistan.
The radio programme is part of a UNHCR mass information campaign for refugees that also includes compilation of a bi-monthly bulletin in Kabul that is distributed to Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran in Afghan languages. Earlier in 2004, UNHCR established an information centre for Afghan refugees in Quetta to increase their access to factual information about the changing conditions inside Afghanistan.
Kwame Boafo, head of UNHCR sub-office Quetta, said the UN refugee agency was exerting all efforts to help Afghan refugees in making a well-informed decision on repatriation: "As the repatriation process is voluntary in nature, it is up to the refugees when they think that they can move back to their country. UNHCR on its part tries to provide them with the maximum realistic information about the country of origin," he said. More than 2.3 million Afghan refugees have returned home from Pakistan under the UNHCR-facilitated voluntary repatriation programme since early 2002. More than 375,000 have returned in 2004. The voluntary repatriation assistance continues until March 2006 under a tripartite agreement signed between the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan and UNHCR.
(source: www.unhcr.ch/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home/+BwwBmeALz7exxwwwwnwwwwwwwhFqnN0bItFqnDni5zFqnN0bIAFqnN0bIDzmxwwwwwww1FqnN0bI/opendoc.htm)

BBC coverage of Afghanistan
In December 2004 BBC launched a 24 hour English FM station in Kabul. In addition to the programming on BBC 101.6 FM, BBC World Service programmes in Pashto, Persian and Uzbek are currently broadcast on FM across Afghanistan on 89 FM in Kabul, Mazar and Jalalabad; 88.1 FM in Konduz; 88.4FM in Fairzabad; 99.6 FM in Pole-Khomi; 89.2 FM in Herat; 87.9 FM in Gandez; 89.1 FM in Jalal os Saraj; 91 FM in Sheberghan; 92 FM in Maimana; 88.3 FM in Saloquan; 88.3 FM in Taloqan and 90.1 FM in Khost. Programmes can also be heard on mediumwave and shortwave across the country.

IWPR Hands Over Pajhwok Afghan News Agency to Local Ownership

On 22 January 2005  the Institute for War and Peace Reporting formally handed over control of the Pajhwok Afghan News Agency to its local management team. Publishing 35 stories a day and with a trained staff of over 40 trained journalists and editors -10 of whom were women - Pajhwok played a critical role in providing balanced coverage of the historic October 2004 presidential elections disseminating its work to the population at large through 50 radio stations in 23 regions, national newspaper syndication as well as a dedicated election newspaper.
The project to establish the Pajhwok agency was launched by IWPR in April 2004 with support from the US Agency for International Development's Office of Transition Initiatives.  Within months, it was locally registered, fully operational and publishing stories in Dari, Pashtu  and English out of bureaus in Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif.
IWPR's creation of Pajhwok is a breakthrough in the international community's support for civil society in the country, demonstrating the energy and capacity of Afghan journalists and editors to produce responsible and timely journalism contributing to informed democratic debate. The project incorporates a strong basic skills and on-the-job training component, to enable Afghans to produce responsible journalism to international standards and to build capacity to enable them to undertake the sustainable operation of the agency for the long-term.
(IWPR Press Release 11 January 2005)

2007 The return of Taliban Radio
In summer 2007 Radio Voice of the Shariat returned to the air. According to local reports in the southern provinces bordering Pakistan, the renewed Taliban programmes were heard nightly from an unknown place on FM band, which can be heard for over a week. Most of their programmes are propaganda against the Karzai Government and international forces based in Afghanistan. The songs remind the people of Taliban as a good period of their rule.

Afghan Recovery Report No. 268, October 12, 2007
Afghan TV focuses on victims of violence
Afghan television stations show the human face of suffering.

By Wahidullah Amani in Kabul

The image is stark - a small boy stands on his father’s grave holding a photograph of a bearded, turbaned man. The boy is crying, looking down and saying, “This is my father, who was killed in a suicide bombing in Charahi Qambar.” This short but powerful television clip was part of a concerted campaign by several Afghan TV stations to bring home the human tragedy of bomb attacks that have shattered Kabul’s relative calm over the past ten days.
On September 29, a powerful blast tore through a residential district, killing 30 and injuring 29. Just three days later, on October 2, another suicide bomber took the lives of 15, injuring ten. And on October 6, a further bomb near the airport killed four.
The capital, preparing for the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of Ramadan, was temporarily shocked into silence. But the hardy residents of Kabul soon began picking themselves up, and less than a week after the latest attack, the streets were once again crowded with holiday shoppers. For the families of the victims, Eid will offer cold comfort.
Three major television stations have set themselves the task of keeping the faces and stories of these people in the public eye and consciousness.
“We want to send a message to both sides - to the Taleban and to the government and NATO forces,” said Abdul Qadeer Merzai, head of the news desk at Ariana Radio & Television Network. “We want to show them what they are doing. People are being killed, wives are losing their husbands, and children are losing their fathers, brothers and sisters. We are showing them what the survivors’ lives are like.”
Ariana is a private station begun two years ago, broadcasting to 28 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, and available via satellite in the rest of the world. It broadcasts in both the major languages, Pashto and Dari. “We have received many calls and emails from Afghans living in Europe and other western countries,” said Merzai. “After the October 2 bomb, many people asked how they could contact the families. They wanted to help them.”
Ariana has an even loftier aim in mind, according to Merzai. “We hope we can reduce the number of suicide attacks through these broadcasts,” he said. “After they see the victims on television, maybe some potential suicide bombers will change their minds. We are all human beings.”
The programming is certainly having an impact on the general population. When the broadcasts come on, rooms fall silent. Some people weep, while others turn their heads away. “It is really painful to watch these broadcasts,” said Dil Agha, 24. “I want these people to stop. If they are against the government, they can fight in the mountains or in the desert. But with suicide bombs, they kill women, they kill children. These stories show them what they did.”
The Taleban claimed responsibility for the Kabul attacks, but the fundamentalists are not the only people targeted in the media blitz.
“We have sent reporters to Helmand and other provinces,” said Mujahed Kakar, the head of Lemar TV and news editor of its parent station, Tolo. “We have done stories on civilian casualties, those who died in NATO bombings. We want to present the voice of civilians, those who are hurt. We want both sides to be very careful so as to minimise civilian deaths.”
Lemar and Tolo have joined the campaign, expressing similar aims to Ariana.
“The Taleban always say they are targeting foreign troops and the Afghan army,” said Kakar. “We are telling the stories of the civilian casualties to show them that these aren’t Afghan army soldiers or foreigners. We are investigating the short- and long-term consequences of these attacks. I think no Muslim is interested in killing another Muslim.”
Lemar, just one year old, broadcasts exclusively in Pashto and can be seen in nine provinces, mainly in the south and east. Tolo is the oldest of the independent stations, launched in 2004, with programming mostly in Dari.
Among the family members seen on TV was a woman whose son was driving the bus that was blown up in the October 2 attack.  “He was my only son,” she said on screen, crying. “Now he has left a wife and three children. What can I do? Who is going to feed them?”
The TV stations look set to continue show this kind of programme, but even outside the format, victims are trying to be heard. On one recent call-in programme on Tolo TV, a young girl asked for advice from an on-air psychologist. “I lost my mother and my eight-year-old brother in the [September 29] suicide attack,” she said. “Now I can’t stop crying. What should I do?”

Wahidullah Amani is IWPR’s lead trainer and reporter in Kabul.

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AFGHAN RECOVERY REPORT from the Institute for War & Peace Reporting is a unique free service providing local media outlets and the international community with objective and reliable news from local sources.
Afghan Recovery Report is produced as part of IWPR's training work to develop the professional capabilities and sustainability of the Afghan print media, facilitating their role as a critical monitor and guardian of the stabilisation and recovery process.
The opinions expressed in IWPR's Afghan Recovery Report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of IWPR.

IWPR Afghanistan provides workshops and practical on-the-job training for local journalists, with weekly publication and syndication in local language media. Other activities include training Afghan trainers, working with the Kabul University journalism faculty and reporting on
human rights and humanitarian issues.

AFGHAN RECOVERY REPORT: Editor-in-Chief: Anthony Borden; Managing Editor: Yigal Chazan; Senior Editor: John Macleod; Project Director: Jean MacKenzie.

IWPR Project Development and Support: Executive Director: Anthony Borden; Strategy & Assessment Director: Alan Davis; Chief Programme Officer: Mike Day.

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IWPR builds democracy at the frontlines of conflict and change through
the power of professional journalism. IWPR programs provide intensive
hands-on training, extensive reporting and publishing, and ambitious
initiatives to build the capacity of local media. Supporting
peace-building, development and the rule of law, IWPR gives responsible
local media a voice.

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ISSN: 1477-7916 Copyright (c) 2007 The Institute for War & Peace
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BBC responds to criticism from the Afghan Ministry of Defence
The BBC strongly takes issue with criticism from the Afghan Ministry of Defence of its news coverage in Afghanistan. In a statement issued on Wednesday 9 January 2008, the ministry claimed that coverage of the assault on Musa Qala in Helmand province was untrue and showed evidence of prejudiced reporting. The ministry criticised one report that civilians had been killed in the assault on the town, and two other reports in which the BBC was alleged to have said that members of the Afghan National Army had been looting in the town.
A BBC report did quote local people in Musa Qala, interviewed in the aftermath of the military operation to expel the Taleban, who said they had seen civilian casualties.  The BBC report stated: "This is denied by the government and the Ministry of Defence, and [the civilian casualties] were impossible to verify in the time we had on the ground." No report alleging looting appeared on the BBC output.  The BBC notes that the ministry in Kabul has been unable to produce any evidence to support its allegations.
Issued by BBC World Service Press Office http://www.bbc.co.uk
 
 
 
 
 

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