The many faces of Afghan me­dia

Afghanistan is fac­ing a rev­o­lu­tion on the me­dia front. Ex­pres­sion is rel­a­tively free in the coun­try and a dis­cov­ery for jour­nal­ists as well as the peo­ple at large.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Meena Ahmed

Me­dia in Afghanistan is quite use­ful in cre­at­ing aware­ness and ed­u­cat­ing the masses and has emerged as a pow­er­ful tool in the hands of young Afghans. Lo­cal jour­nal­ists re­fer to their me­dia as one of the most sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ments of the post-Tal­iban regime. For them, me­dia is a pro­gres­sive so­cial in­sti­tu­tion. It is hard to gauge the ex­act strength of Afghan me­dia, but it has grown strong enough to cre­ate a no­tice­able im­pact.

“The Afghan me­dia was in its worse ever con­di­tion af­ter the col­lapse of Dr Na­jeeb’s govern­ment as the coun­try had only one sta­te­owned ra­dio and tele­vi­sion chan­nel broad­cast­ing pro-govern­ment news and ad­ver­tise­ments. The sit­u­a­tion con­tin­ued dur­ing the Tal­iban regime even though a few Farsi and Pashto ra­dio chan­nels were cov­er­ing news from within Afghanistan,” said Rezwan Na­tiq, a lo­cal Afghan jour­nal­ist, while re­spond­ing to a ques­tion about the coun­try’s me­dia.

How­ever, lo­cal Afghan me­dia is un­der ex­treme pres­sure, ex­plains an­other jour­nal­ist Qi­a­mud­din Noori. “Not to for­get, the Afghan lo­cal me­dia is faced with un­lim­ited chal­lenges, in par­tic­u­lar lack of ac­cess to ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion for the news feed. No one in here is ready to talk to you. The rea­son is that of­fi­cials are scared of their wrong pub­lic per­cep­tion. How­ever, in com­par­i­son to the lo­cal me­dia, the in­ter­na­tional me­dia has ac­cess to al­most ev­ery­thing, from in­ter­view­ing the most high-rank­ing of­fi­cials to the low­est lev­els of the pub­lic,” he added.

Afghanistan is go­ing through many geopo­lit­i­cal changes be­cause of which it has been in the lime­light for sev­eral years. As a re­sult, freedom of speech has been a ma­jor achieve­ment of this govern­ment since ev­ery­one en­joys the right to crit­i­cize au­thor­i­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to stud­ies, there are to­day around 76 TV and ra­dio sta­tions across the coun­try with over two dozen just in the cap­i­tal city of Kabul. On­line me­dia has also grown man­i­fold in re­cent years as ac­cess to the in­ter­net is in­creas­ing. Some of the most pop­u­lar lo­cal TV and ra­dio sta­tions are Tolo TV and Tolo News (owned by an AfghanAus­tralian jour­nal­ist and busi­ness­man, Chan­nel 1, RTA (Ra­dio Tele­vi­sion of Afghanistan), Ari­ana TV and ra­dio. Some lo­cal news­pa­pers in­clude The Afghanistan Times (English ver­sion), Anis, 8 am, etc.

When asked about the role me­dia is play­ing in the com­mon man’s life, Qi­a­mud­din Noori said hat in com­par­i­son to the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, like Rus­sia, Iran, China or even Pak­istan, freedom of speech in Afghanistan is in­deed sat­is­fac­tory. “Peo­ple al­most can share lo­cal is­sues with me­dia,” he says. In fact, Noori tells how the Afghan me­dia is launch­ing a se­ries of pro­grams to make the pub­lic aware and is en­cour­ag­ing them to be more open, voic­ing their say with­out fear of be­ing ar­rested or as­saulted. In gen­eral, freedom of speech has been called the one and only ma­jor achieve­ment of the new es­tab­lish­ment un­der the lead­er­ship of Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai.

While an­a­lyz­ing the Afghan me­dia, one will find that there are more news­pa­pers than the on­line news out­lets and TV sta­tions, but on the whole, the coun­try does not have that many news­pa­per read­ers, says jour­nal­ist Na­tiq.

“Peo­ple here pre­fer broad­cast over print as the lit­er­acy level is sim­ply low and 60 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion is still un­e­d­u­cated. As a jour­nal­ist, I be­lieve the me­dia has deeply in­flu­enced the life of the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly the newer gen­er­a­tion. There are sev­eral ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams which are in­for­ma­tive for stu­dents. Also the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry has launched its own TV sta­tion, en­cour­ag­ing stu­dents to watch such ed­uca­tive pro­grams,” he ex­plained.

The Afghan me­dia is lead­ing its way in terms of in­flu­enc­ing the govern­ment and com­mu­nity. “Me­dia has played

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