Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL 19) visited RFE/RL’s Prague headquarters Monday afternoon. Wexler met with RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin and the staff of RFE/RL’s Afghan service, Radio Azadi.
Akbar Ayazi, the director of the Afghan service, gave Wexler and his staff a brief overview of the radio station and its operations. Mr. Ayazi described Radio Azadi’s broad popularity in Afghanistan, where it currently holds a 52% share of the market. Congressman Wexler was shown several large rice bags stuffed with thousands of handwritten letters sent in by listeners in Afghanistan. One letter, selected by Congressman Wexler at random for Mr. Ayazi to read, was from a young listener in Afghanistan writing to Radio Azadi’s music request show. The writer thanked the station for their service of providing specifically Afghan music, and requested a song for himself and his friends, which he wished to dedicate to his brother and his village.
Czech Republic - Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL 19), is shown a 6m-long letter sent in to Radio Free Afghanistan from a 14-year old Afghan boy. 29Jun2009
Mr. Ayazi also showed Congressman Wexler a long letter sent in to the radio by a 14-year-old boy in Afghanistan – when taped together and unscrolled, it was more than 6 meters long. Mr. Ayazi noted that the station receives 300-400 letters in the mail each week. “This is diplomacy,” he said. “This is how you reach hearts and minds.”
Congressman Wexler asked Mr. Ayazi how Radio Azadi distinguished itself from other foreign broadcasters in Afghanistan, such as the BBC. Mr. Ayazi replied that Radio Azadi is more than “just reading the news…it is a public service for Afghans” via its interactive and user-driven content and programming.
After the visit, Congressman Wexler also sat down for an interview with RFE/RL correspondent Gregory Feifer. Read the full interview