(Prague, Czech Republic -- January 30, 2002) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Inc. today launched broadcasting to Afghanistan in the Dari and Pashto languages. At a brief opening ceremony in Prague, RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine said "we are proud to be given this opportunity to help build a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan through the medium of news and information."
Dine said that "after nearly three decades of war and misery and a near total blackout on information, we believe people in Afghanistan will welcome the chance to hear accurate, objective and comprehensive news and analysis about local developments on RFE/RL broadcasts." He noted that RFE/RL already has a sizable audience among ethnic minorities that listen to RFE/RL’s daily broadcasts in the Farsi, Uzbek, Turkmen and Tajik languages.
Radio Free Afghanistan will begin by providing two hours of original broadcasts to Afghanistan daily, from 14:00-15:00 hours CET and from 18:00-19:00 CET, as well as one hour of repeat programming from 0400:0500 CET. The first 30 minutes of each broadcast are in Pashto, followed by 30 minutes in the Dari language. The programs will be broadcast to Afghanistan via shortwave and on a joint RFE/RL-Voice of America mediumwave broadcast stream administered by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the U.S. agency in Washington that oversees American international broadcasting.
RFE/RL operated a "Radio Free Afghanistan" service broadcasting in Dari and Pashto from 1985 until 1993, when the services were closed down as part of an overall restructuring of RFE/RL operations following the end of the Cold War. Legislation approved by the U.S. Congress in December 2001 appropriated funds to resume the Afghan broadcasts as part of the post-September 11 U.S. war on terrorism.
RFE/RL Director of Broadcasting Jeffrey Trimble said that 15 people will be hired to fill Prague-based Afghan Service staff positions, while plans call for 20 stringers to report for the service from Afghanistan's eight largest cities. RFE/RL is making preparations to open a bureau in Kabul within the next two months. Additional Afghan Service stringers will be located in Islamabad, Tehran, Tashkent, Dushanbe, Ashgabat, Bishkek, Almaty, New Delhi, Ankara, Moscow, London, New York and Washington.
Service reporting will be enhanced by contributions from existing stringers from RFE/RL's Tajik, Uzbek, Persian and Turkmen Services who have been covering events in Afghanistan since last fall.
Live and on-demand RealAudio of the Dari and Pashto broadcasts to Afghanistan is available on RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan website, located at www.rferl.org/bd/af/