WASHINGTON - With the Afghan government and Taliban militants now negotiating possible peace at the intra-Afghan talks underway in Doha, RFE/RL and its Radio Free Afghanistan service have taken an intimate, multipart look at what may be at stake for women and for the victims of the bloody, protracted war. In Pakistan, RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal has uncovered striking differences in how private and state schools are implementing government anti-coronavirus regulations in the capital, Islamabad, and in rural areas near the border with Afghanistan, and revealed land ownership disputes that cloud the future of the tribal region that has suffered more than a decade of military operations against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda militant networks.
Engaging, locally reported stories like these that affect a region dominating international headlines for two decades are a calling card for RFE/RL and its Pashto- and Dari-language content services. Beginning today, this content will be significantly more accessible to audiences within and outside of South Asia with the relaunch of the Gandhara website as the go-to source for English-language reporting by RFE/RL journalists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
According to editor Abubakar Siddique, author of the 2014 book The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key to the Future of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the website takes its inspiration from Gandhara, the ancient region comprising parts of today’s Afghanistan and Pakistan. Siddique notes that the site sources its reporting from Radio Free Afghanistan, locally known as Radio Azadi, and its network of 40 reporters in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul and a majority of key provinces, and from Radio Mashaal, which maintains a nationwide network of journalists across Pakistan.
“RFE/RL’s networks of experienced local journalists in Afghanistan and Pakistan offer us a singular vantage point from which to report on the people and forces that are shaping developments in this often-misunderstood part of the world,” says RFE/RL Acting President Daisy Sindelar. “We are excited to have this opportunity to bring more of this reporting to audiences that do not speak the local languages.”
A primary feature of the website will be a weekly newsletter, Gandhara Briefing, that will alert subscribers to the week’s most compelling stories and offer incisive analysis of the political and social trends in the two countries. Gandhara is also active on social media, meeting audiences on platforms popular in the region including Facebook and Twitter.
Since its inception in 2014, Gandhara has reflected the mission and journalistic standards of RFE/RL in its reporting and analysis about Afghanistan and Pakistan. For the past six years, Gandhara’s content has consisted of curated reporting by Radio Free Afghanistan and Radio Mashaal correspondents as well as exclusive reporting and analyses, including breaking major stories. Activists, academics, and experts regularly contribute thought-provoking commentaries, and Gandhara reports in-depth features from remote corners of the Pakistan and Afghanistan.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 38 million people in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed over 3.6 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2019. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.