RFE/RL launches Radio Afghanistan

RFE/RL, photo: CTK

On Wednesday, the U.S. - funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) launched its Afghan service with the goal of providing the people of Afghanistan with local, on-the-ground, everyday coverage of political, economic, and social developments. More from Dita Asiedu:

RFE/RL,  photo: CTK
"This signature tune belongs to an illegal radio station which is the main tool of espionage and subversive activities of the Central Intelligence Service in the USA, notoriously known under the abbreviation CIA. The station's broadcasts are directed against the socialist countries, yes, it's the subversive radio transmitter, Radio Free Europe, based in Munich."

During the Cold War that was Radio Free Europe's signature tune for all broadcasts to communist Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Today, after the fall of communism in this part of the world, the station has turned to other countries where there is no free press. On Wednesday, it was proud to launch its new service to Afghanistan. At its headquarters in Prague, just before the very first broadcast in the local Afghan language of Pashtu, acting Afghan service director Abbas Djavadi introduced the department's members:

"We have a nice group of eight excellent and professional journalists who are all Afghan nationals. Two of them are being transferred from the Tajik service, we have a female journalist transferred from a TV programme in Hamburg, another journalist who is also from Hamburg, one more coming from Germany with quite a lot of experience in international affairs, another female - a very well known voice in Afghanistan. We have two former fellows from RFE/RL Munich times and we have a few working in the studio right now and we are very grateful for all of them and I can assure you that this team will be joined by an increased number of other professional Afghan journalists with most recent experience in Afghanistan. I am very proud of having this programme on the air in a few minutes now and this is the excitement of a father waiting for the baby to be born."

RFE/RL,  photo: CTK
"This is Radio Free Afghanistan". With these words, RFE/RL resumed its broadcast to Afghanistan, which had to be cut in 1993 when it restructured its overall operation after the end of the Cold War. The station's President, Thomas Dine explained how the launch of the new service came about and what its goals were:

"Conceptually it began its course of processes through the American democratic system - Congress, the Executive branch - the President signed the legislation into law in early January. The point now is not so much what the Taliban is up to and where Osama bin Laden is. That was then. The issues now are building democratic institutions, exerting the value, the first guarantee of the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. That is our number one role and you do that by giving the listeners factual, timely, and credible information. That is what we are all about."

RFE/RL hopes to reach some 80 percent of potential Afghan listeners. The service will begin broadcasting two hours a day equally divided between the two local Afghan languages Pashtu and Dari. According to Mr Dine, RFE/RL already has a sizeable audience among ethnic minorities that listen to its daily broadcasts in the Farsi, Uzbek, Turkmen, and Tajik languages.