(Washington, DC--December 16, 2004) The spokesman for the United Nations' senior diplomat in Afghanistan thanked Radio Free Afghanistan (RFA) for its "sustained coverage" of the abduction of three UN employees -- Annetta Flanigan, Shqipe Hebibi, and Angelito Nayan. Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Spokesman for the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Afghanistan, in a letter received by RFA's bureau in Kabul yesterday, December 15, wrote that its "coverage of the issue proves [RFA's] professionalism and [its] sense of responsibility towards a sensitive humanitarian and security problem."
Flanigan, Hebibi and Nayan were abducted in Kabul on October 28 and held hostage for 27 days. The three were released unharmed on November 23.
RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine welcomed news of the letter: "Coming on the heels of the recent news of Radio Free Afghanistan's high listenership rates, this letter offers additional testimony to the esteem in which our Afghan broadcasts are held. We are honored to have this opportunity to serve the Afghan people as well as the members or the international community helping to rebuild that war-torn country."
RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan was the first to report the release of the three hostages to the Afghan people the morning of November 23, immediately after receiving telephone calls from both the UN representative's office and the Afghan Interior Ministry. RFA had been following the hostage crisis closely since the three were seized, according to Radio Free Afghanistan acting director Alexander Lukashuk, keeping its daily reports on the abduction fresh by examining the issue from many different angles. These included interviews with officials, security experts, UN workers, security and other NGO workers around the country, as well as round-table and call-in discussions that gave local Afghan citizens a chance to publicly condemn the abductions. Female listeners first offered to stand in as replacement hostages for the three UN employees during one of these call-in programs; later, a group of women made a public statement that clearly demonstrated the Afghan public's stance and resolve, Lukashuk said.
Radio Free Afghanistan, the Dari- and Pashto-language service of RFE/RL, broadcasts 12 hours of programming a day, with programs produced in Prague and the service's Kabul Bureau and transmitted to listeners via shortwave, satellite and AM and FM signals provided by the International Broadcasting Bureau. Radio Free Afghanistan programming is also available via the Internet, at the service's trilingual website www.azadiradio.org and at www.rferl.org. A recently released survey of five Afghan provinces by the InterMedia Survey Institute 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.