The European Union has launched a new radio station for listeners in Afghanistan. The station is financed by the European Commission and staffed with new Afghan recruits. Its aim, the European Commission says, is to "provide the Afghan population with objective information and the Afghan government with a national voice."
Brussels, 25 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- With the help of European Commission funds and secondhand equipment from local Danish and Scottish radio stations, a team of around 20 young Afghan journalists this morning launched "Good Morning Afghanistan."
The show is broadcast in both Dari and Pashto -- the dominant languages in Afghanistan. According to a European Commission press release, it can be received by up to 80 percent of the population of Afghanistan.
Radio Afghanistan's team of 20 young journalists was trained by various European Union nongovernmental organizations, led by the Copenhagen-based Baltic Media Center.
The opening sounds of the daily two-hour show broadcast by Radio Afghanistan were recorded by European Commission sound engineers with the help of a satellite link.
"The program of 'Good Morning Afghanistan' is the result of cooperation between the BMC [Baltic Media Center], the European Commission, and Radio Afghanistan."
Gunnar Wiegand, a spokesman for EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, said today the journalists were drawn from "all ethnic minorities" in Afghanistan.
He said the commission is relying on the experience and professional track record of the Danish NGO to keep the broadcasts objective and free of propaganda. Wiegand said the commission's initial investment was about 235,000 euros, or a little less than $200,000.
Radio Afghanistan joins, among others, the Radio Free Afghanistan service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which started broadcasting a month ago in both Dari and Pashtu. Radio Free Afghanistan has around 10 local correspondents and its daily three-hour broadcasts will be extended to six hours next month.
Wiegand said the new station was not meant to compete with other broadcast organizations in Afghanistan, but rather to support local broadcasters.
"It is certainly to be welcomed if you would have a plurality of radio broadcasts now [in Afghanistan]. We are not here in competition with Voice of America or the BBC or whoever wants to set up something there. What we are doing is that we help to reestablish Radio Afghanistan, which existed in the old Kabul Radio building. New life has gone into it, partially with new people. We want to help the Afghan administration to have a radio operational with the possibility of being listened to across the country."
Wiegand said the commission is likely to include the new station in its long-term financing plans for Afghanistan.