RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin
met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai today at the end of a five-day trip to promote media freedom in Afghanistan.
"A country with centuries of history, of cultural complexity, and a downtrodden economy that has been ravaged by war wants to feel respected," said Karzai, whose anti-Western remarks have made international headlines over the past week.
Some of us even adjust our prayer schedules so we don't miss the news programs.
At RFE/RL's Kabul bureau, Gedmin congratulated the staff of Radio Azadi (RFE/RL's Afghan Service) for being Afghanistan's most popular radio station.
"Your commitment to journalistic excellence in the face of danger to yourselves and your families is something to be proud of," he said. "Radio Azadi is playing a vital role in reconstructing the civil society that was gutted by the Taliban."
Gedmin's trip included meetings with provincial governors, cabinet ministers, NGO activists, tribal and religious leaders, and members of Afghanistan's parliament. He also met with ISAF and U.S. officials.
"We need Radio Azadi," Afghan Deputy Minister of Border and Tribal Affairs Yaqub Ahmadzai told Gedmin. "Some of us even adjust our prayer schedules so we don't miss the news programs."
President Karzai said Radio Azadi's call-in shows and discussions "allow the government to hear directly from the people." One well-known Afghan journalist said the station "has allowed Afghans, for the first time in 30 years, to criticize their government."
In a meeting about Afghanistan's future, Sima Samar, an NGO activist and physician who was nominated for last year's Nobel Peace Prize, said corruption is a major problem. However, she stressed that, prior to the 2001 U.S. invasion, there were no functioning institutions at all.
"You can dispute the quality of education," said Samar. "But girls go to school now. It's an enormous step forward."
About Radio Azadi
RFE/RL's Afghan Service, known locally as Radio Azadi, is the most popular radio station in Afghanistan. Radio Azadi produces a variety of programming, including news, investigative features, political satire, literary programs and music. It is noted particularly for its numerous programs dedicated to women's rights, youth issues, and democracy. Over the years, Radio Azadi has received thousands of letters from listeners throughout the country and across the region.