Friday, June 26, 2009

RFE/RL & VOA to Expand Reach into Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Region

Washington, DC, 06/25/2009
Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) will receive additional resources to expand critical radio broadcasts to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region as part of the $106 billion emergency war bill signed today.

With the exception of VOA's Radio Deewa, little independent news and information is available in the volatile border region. Extremist radio stations have proliferated in recent months, and the new programs will bolster current U.S. efforts to provide an alternative source of independent news and information to the Pashto speaking people in Pakistan. The expanded programming of Radio Deewa, and new programming from RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, will feature a wide range of news, political, and cultural programs with call-in shows and content geared toward women and youth. Programs will be distributed via shortwave, FM and the Internet. "Radio is a powerful medium. Extremists encouraging violence understand this," said D. Jeffrey Hirschberg, of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) which oversees both VOA and RFE/RL. "Our broadcasts are an antidote to such extremism and we are grateful for the opportunity to expand our programs. They will be central to providing an alternate view, one based on accuracy and balance, which is generally absent from local media."

About Deewa Radio Created in October 2006, Deewa Radio targets an estimated 35 million Pashto-speaking people in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, including the NWFP where some 2.5 million people have been displaced as Pakistani military battle Taliban fighters. Deewa also reaches Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Baluchistan.

Earlier this month, Deewa Radio added three hours of programming in the morning to complement the six hours of evening news and information broadcasts. In addition to news, programs include information about health, shelter, social issues, education, science and culture. The program provides a lifeline to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in camps and elsewhere. Up to 300 people per day routinely call in to Deewa Radio programs. VOA also reaches millions of people daily through its popular radio and TV Ashna in Dari and Pashto, as well as its Urdu radio program Aap Ki Dunya and Beyond the Headlines Urdu television program. About Radio Azadi RFE/RL will launch a new radio program for the Pashto-speaking people of Pakistan, complementing VOA's existing programming to the volatile region.

This expands RFE/RL's existing Afghan service, Radio Azadi, the most popular radio station in Afghanistan which reaches more than 50% of the adult population with programs in Dari and Pashto. It was launched in 2001 as part of an effort to build a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan following the ouster of the Taliban.
(BBG Press Release/Alokesh Gupta)