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'Obamamania' Hits Afghan Media

Media has boomed in recent years in Afghanistan
Media has boomed in recent years in Afghanistan
For the first time in years, stories about suicide bombings, Taliban raids, and the prospects of a long, cold winter in which many Afghans may face starvation are not dominating the headlines in the Afghan media.

The country -- which is expected to top President-elect Barack Obama's foreign policy agenda -- is experiencing its own "Obamamania" as stories about his historic win dominate the country's newspapers, magazines, radio broadcasts, and TV news.

Many Afghans believe the election of Obama on November 4 might bring change to their homeland and are keenly following developments in the United States.

Faizullah Muhtaj, the editor of the government-owned daily "Anees" in Kabul, tells RFE/RL that these days his newspaper is filled with stories about Obama's election victory.

"Obama's victory is the focus of media in Kabul. We cover this story in our news reports, interviews, and opinion pieces," Muhtaj said.

Since the fall of the Taliban seven years ago, there has been huge growth in the number of newspapers, and radio and TV stations in Afghanistan.

Introducing Obama

Dozens of newspapers and magazines now fill Kabul's newsstands. Hundreds of local and international radio and TV stations compete to attract an increasingly media-savvy Afghan audience.

Ihsanullah Aryanzai, who heads Aryana TV, a leading Afghan satellite TV station with a sizeable audience at home and popular among the Afghans abroad, tells RFE/RL that Obama's election is resonating with Afghans "because for the first time in history a black person is elected as the U.S. president."

Muhtaj says because people in Afghanistan are not familiar with Obama, Aryana's coverage is aimed at introducing him to Afghans -- in particular his future plans and policies for their country.

Many Afghans believe that only a quick turnaround in the U.S. strategy can prevent their country from descending into anarchy.

During campaigning, Obama has said that Afghanistan would be one of his key foreign-policy priorities and the central front in fighting terrorists. He has said he would send two more combat brigades to the country.

In recent months, the security situation has deteriorated in Afghanistan, with some 4,000 people, civilians and troops, killed in fighting with the Taliban.

Many Afghans have also been killed in U.S. air strikes.

RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondents Ajmal Toorman and Ahmed Jhaksfer Ahmedi contributed to this story
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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

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