RFE's programs in the Pashtun regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan are expanding from six to nine hours a day, starting today. Amid the growing number of extremist-controlled radio stations in the region, Radio Mashaal
("Torch" in Pashto) covers local and international news with independent reports on terrorism, politics, women's issues, and health care.
Recently, a mother who was the sole survivor of a 2008 Taliban attack on a prominent anti-Taliban family in the Swat Valley told her story on the air. Radio Mashaal also interviewed the only survivor of a Taliban attack on a local jirga earlier this year that killed 30 people.
"People don't know these stories," says Acting Radio Mashaal Director Amanullah Ghilzai. "The more we broadcast Taliban atrocities, the more people come forward to share their experiences."
In May, Radio Mashaal's Daud Khattak interviewed a 26 year-old Pakistani father of two whose hands were chopped off by the Taliban after being accused of theft. Two others also had their hands cut off, but local residents - including the men's families - never reported the incident to authorities for fear of Taliban retribution.
Radio Mashaal's extensive coverage of the devastating floods in Pakistan last month included live reports from affected areas, interviews with government officials, and reaction from the international community. One Radio Mashaal correspondent, Shah Nawaz Khan, reported on the devastation from Pakistan's remote northwest, venturing further into isolated areas than any other journalist in the region.
One of Radio Mashaal's most popular programs, My Home, My Village,takes an in-depth look at the people, history, and culture of villages across the region. Because of limited means, difficult terrain, and a dangerous security environment, listeners often know little about other people and places in the tribal areas.
RFE President Jeffrey Gedmin calls Radio Mashaal's increasing popularity "proof that people will never fail to choose truth over falsehood when given a fair chance to decide."
About Radio Mashaal
Radio Mashaal was established in January 2010 to broadcast independent news and information in the local Pashto dialect of the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It operates out of a new bureau in Pakistan and broadcasts from RFE's Prague headquarters. Radio Mashaal shares a frequency with VOA's Radio Deewa and transmits via FM and shortwave. Online, Radio Mashaal's website provides a live stream of its broadcasts.