Ahead of UNESCO World Radio Day February 13, we asked our listeners in five of the 26 countries where we broadcast what radio means to them, and the response was overwhelming. We received hundreds of calls, emails, social media messages and SMSs from listeners from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Georgia, and Moldova telling us that the radio, and RFE/RL’s language services in particular, are an indispensable source of news and information for them. Here is a small selection of their comments.
Pakistan Service: Known locally as “Radio Mashaal,” is a public service broadcaster providing an alternative to extremist propaganda in Pakistan's tribal regions on radio and web.
I like Radio Mashaal very much. I am uneducated, but when I sit with my friends they ask me, “how is it you talk so differently when you are not educated like us?” I reply to my friends and other girls that it’s because I listen to Radio Mashaal. Radio Mashaal is like my mother, who gave me knowledge and awareness and taught me humanity. I’ve listened to Radio Mashaal and Voice of America’s Deewa Radio from childhood. I like all Mashsall programs, including news. My favorite shows are those featuring messages from listeners and your health show, which educates me about health issues. I feel like a doctor myself after listening to this program.
--Kulsoom Wafa, a female listener from Khyber Pashtunkhwa Province, Pakistan.
I’ve liked radio since childhood, but Radio Mashaal is the best because it gives voice to the people from the tribal areas and informs those in power about our problems and issues.
-- Noor Rahmad Dawa, a listener based in Dubai who is originally from North Waziristan, Pakistan.
The importance of your radio is so much. I am living out of country right now and there is no telephone line in our home in Waziristan. My family listen my voice when I call in to your radio shows and they know that I am all right. The only source I have to inform them about me is Radio Mashaal.
-- Zeer Mohammad Suliman Khel, a male listener from Waziristan.
Radio programs are so beneficial and useful for us. It gives us education, knowledge, and wisdom. We listen to your radio very keenly. As girls we are not allowed to go out and talk to anyone, and your radio programs give us a chance to come forward and take part in discussions through call-in shows.
-- Rohana Rehan, a female listener from Baluchistan Province, Pakistan.
Iran Service: Known locally as “Radio Farda,” broadcasts to Persian-speaking audiences on radio, satellite TV, and web. As Farda is officially banned by the government, listeners contacted us anonymously.
It has been 10 years now that Radio Farda has been my companion. Whether when I am in Iran or outside of the country, I love it dearly. I believe it is the only place in which people are to allowed to talk easily and freely, and I think a democratic soul guides Radio Farda.
You provide such appealing entertainment for the miserable people of Iran who are not among those seven or eight million close to the regime. In taxis, shops, everywhere, you’ll find people listening to Radio Farda. A reporter should come and make a report about the role of Radio Farda in Iran.
I have a message for your listeners. I am a 70-year old man who has traveled the world. I’ve come to this conclusion: When there is Radio Farda, there is hope, and with the help of Farda (in Persian “Farda” means “tomorrow”) we can have a better tomorrow. Tune in to Radio Farda with hope and tell others to listen, to absorb, and to remain hopeful.
We are two truck drivers who listen to you on the road. You wipe away our fatigue.
My name is Azadeh and I’m calling from The Netherlands. I’ve wanted to call you for some time and express my gratitude, but I’ve been searching for the right words to tell you how good your programs are. I didn’t find the words that I wanted, with which I can say how much I like your programs, how much effort you put into this radio. I am truly thankful for you.
Georgian Service: Radio Tavisupleba is a rare source of balanced journalism in a country with two breakaway regions (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) and a press that consistently backs either the government or the opposition. They reach their audience on the radio 18 hours per day, as well as on TV and web.
During the August war in 2008, sixteen neighbors were in my house listening to radio and receiving information. There is an entire social group that depends on the radio--people who work in the fields and on farms and want to constantly receive information, instead of waiting for evening news on television.
--Nino, listener from Nikozi, a village on the de facto boarder with South Ossetia.
Radio is alive and we need it. We need RFE/RL. And we are going to continue needing it until we become part of the big, free world. However, even after this, there will be other kinds of problems with freedoms so RFE/RL will continue working, albeit differently, for us.
-- Emzar Jgerenaia, sociologist
I represent the generation that witnessed radio’s transformation from a box into a mobile application. I believe the development and spread of the Internet will make radio even more accessible for people. It definitely remains a source of information for many people, especially those who drive.
--Mikheil Giorgadze, Georgian Minister of Culture
Even if the 21st century has brought about immense development of other means of communication (and, obviously, I too use the Internet and social media), I think the information transmitted through radio is somehow thicker, more concentrated, more distilled, and gives you exactly what you need and want to know. In 2008, when the war in Georgia was raging, I tried to protect my children from fear and distress and so we did not watch television. I got all my information through radio. And I remember being the most well-informed, having precise information about what was going on. And this was thanks to radio.
-- Lia Mukhashavria, lawyer and human rights activist.
On the road, for example, when in a car, radio is the only and main source of information for me. In societies where governments practice repressions towards free thinking, radio remains the most open source for transmitting free information.
-- Tamar Chugoshvili, Vice-Speaker of Georgian Parliament.
Afghan Service: Known locally as “Radio Azadi” the Afghan Service is the leading media outlet in Afghanistan today, reaching 36 percent of the Afghan population across the country with its radio, SMS, and Internet programs.
I congratulate all the journalists at Radio Azadi for upholding its name for 15 years by delivering programs that contribute to our freedom. Their reporting is deeply educational and reflects the facts on ground. I particularly like that their reporting is neutral.
--Aziz Kargar Ghazniwal, a listener in central Afghanistan
Radio Azadi makes an enormous contribution to freedom of speech, promoting democracy, and bringing people’s voices to the government and that of the authorities to the people. Radio Azadi’s independent broadcasts covering health care, education, and social issues have always met the cultural values of Afghan society.
-- Kamal Sadaat, Afghan Minister of Information and Culture
Radio Azadi is very particular about accuracy because getting the facts right and delivering it to audiences on time are important in journalism. Some news media outlets in Afghanistan, while attempting to deliver the breaking news first hardly pay any attention to accuracy. Thus some of their news coverage undermines their credibility.
-- Hamid Ubaidee, Journalism professor at Kabul University
I have been listening to Radio Azadi since it began broadcasts 15 years ago. Many thanks for your excellent coverage. We are particularly grateful to your journalist Zarif Nazar who never fails to convey our concerns to the relevant authorities. My only wish is that more coverage of education will help in resolving the challenges in this sector.
--Ahmad, a teacher in the northern province of Parwan.
I have been listening to Radio Azadi Pashto and Dari programs since the first broadcast in January 2002. It’s my love. I love Radio Azadi and long live Radio Azadi. Contacting Radio Azadi is super easy via SMS.
--Samiullah Haleemi Tandaar, a listener in southeastern Afghanistan.
Moldovan Service: “Radio Europa Libera” is the most popular international radio broadcaster in Moldova, increasing listeners’ understanding of local, regional, and global events.
We are in vacuum of real information here in Moldova, and that’s why at 9 p.m. I listen to Europa Libera’s radio program on Jurnal FM frequencies. Radio is still for me a source of information and makes me think and try to understand also what’s behind the news, not just the news itself.
--Tudor Stici, driver on a public mini bus in Moldova.
I have been listening to RFE/RL since the Cold War. From Europa Libera I heard for the first time about the Chernobyl tragedy. I had a little child then who I thought I was taking out into the “fresh” air, as I imagined, but after listening to the radio, I understood the dangers and how stupid it was for me to risk the health of my child. I will never forget this. I continue to listen and I trust RFE/RL and its affiliates. That’s the only place I can get something besides lies and propaganda.
-- Ludmila Gremalski, a public sector employee at the Institute for Education Sciences.
For many years for me radio was just a background sound while driving, but with time, I understood its power for spreading information. Now I get the information on radio and then I go to internet to check it, to compare it. When I listen to the radio at work, sometimes, when the program is too interesting, I cannot do my work, so I have to switch it off. Some years ago, I tried to get rid of radio at home, to have just TV and internet and I realized that I cannot live without it. Maybe I am an outdated man, but I need daily radio. I think that radio has a “soul” if you compare it with the TV or Internet. It leaves you the freedom to imagine, you are not forced to see only what the owners of TV want you to see. As for Europa Libera, I am a fan of the Transnistrian Dialogues. It’s the only way to know what’s up on the other part of the Nistru river.
-- Dumitru Ionascu, economist
Radio Europa Libera has the freedom to think, to say the true name of the things going on around us and to come to speak with us, wherever we are. They also have books, not only radio. And in my job, I am happy when people are reading books.
-- Nadea Padure, director of the public library in Straseni