(KABUL, Afghanistan) On the eve of parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, RFE's Radio Azadi -- with the help of the Afghan Air Force and U.S. military -- has launched a new initiative to help Afghans participate in the democratic process by having access to reliable news and information.
At a refugee camp outside Kabul yesterday, Radio Azadi staff began handing out the first of 20,000 solar-powered, hand-cranked radios to Afghans who live in remote places or lack the means to access news and information.
[Media interested in covering this story should contact Julian Knapp]
More than 2,000 radios were delivered this week to Afghans in the provinces of Logar, Shamali, Parwan, Kapisa, and Kabul. Over the next few weeks, the Afghan Air Force will distribute the remaining radios via Mi-17 helicopters to isolated villages throughout the rest of the country.
"Many of Afghanistan's displaced persons camps and remote villages have limited electricity," says RFE President Jeffrey Gedmin. "These battery-free radios are similar to the ones distributed in Haiti after the earthquake. Our objective is to ensure that Afghans everywhere have access to the kind of reliable information necessary to make important decisions about their lives."
In the last few years, there has been a proliferation of Taliban-sponsored radio stations in the region, mainly in the tribal areas along the Pakistani border. These stations - commonly called "Mullah Radio" - incite hatred, intolerance, and ethnic violence.
"In Afghanistan, radio equals access," says Matthew Warshaw, the head of D3 Systems, a leading research firm that examines Afghanistan's media environment. "If the international community hopes to have influence on Afghans -- especially in rural areas where the illiteracy rate is 90 percent for women and 60 percent for men -- radio will be a large part of their media strategy."
For more on this project, contact:
Deputy Communications Director, Prague
Radio Azadi Kabul Bureau Chief
Media Affairs, Washington, D.C.
The Combined Air Power Transition Force (CAPTF):
--Capt. Robert Leese
Chief of Public Affairs
Afghan mobile: +93.705.850.775
About Radio Azadi
In the eight years since Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) launched Radio Azadi as part of an effort to help build a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan, the station has become the most popular source of news in the country (Source: Intermedia 2008).