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.
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