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RFE/RL Expands Broadcasts to Afghanistan Despite Taliban Ban

RFE/RL’s award-winning programming is now available 24/7 for millions of Afghan listeners.

Women protest against a recent attack in Kabul.
Afghanistan – Women Protest against recent attack in Kabul.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) award-winning programming is now available 24 hours a day for millions of Afghan listeners who have come to rely on the broadcaster in the last two decades. Two months after the Taliban removed RFE/RL from AM and FM radio transmitters in Afghanistan, Azadi, as RFE/RL is known locally, is doubling its time on air providing Afghans with independent news in the Dari and Pashto languages. From 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time Azadi is broadcasting on mediumwave on 1296 kHz, while during the second half of the day programming is available on shortwave.

This broadcasting milestone comes on Azadi’s 21st anniversary, and further solidifies RFE/RL’s role as a true public broadcaster – the only non-governmental radio broadcaster available 24/7 in Afghanistan. In the last two decades Azadi has become a staple of everyday life. Afghans frequently referred to Azadi as their “national broadcaster,” and its mix of news and information is commonly heard in public settings in the country, from marketplaces to taxis.

“Our expanded programming for Afghan audiences is indicative of the resilience and creativity of our team and their dedication to continue to reach our audiences in Afghanistan in the face of extreme Taliban pressure,” said RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly. “Azadi will now be available for Afghans day and night to give them hope for a better future.”

Despite significant pressure from the Taliban, RFE/RL continues to provide bold coverage of stories suppressed by state media. Azadi has given a platform for the most vulnerable — women and girlsvictims of violent extremism, the LGBTQI+ community, and youth — to share their experiences. At every step, Azadi has responded to the Taliban’s restrictive governance: when the Taliban forbade music, Azadi continued to play music on air; when the Taliban banned women from public life, Azadi gave women space to tell their stories; when the Taliban barred girls from attending school, Azadi and Learn Afghanistan provided a rigorous curriculum over the radio. For 21 years, Azadi has helped the powerless find community and hope.

In contrast to official Taliban claims, Afghans have again and again expressed their appreciation and gratitude to RFE/RL for providing a vital public service. RFE/RL will continue to find new and innovative ways to reach audiences.

Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, and RFE/RL journalists have paid the ultimate price for their commitment to a free press. In 2018, three Radio Azadi journalists — Maharram Durrani, Abadullah Hananzai, and Sabawoon Kakar — were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Kabul. In 2020, Mohammad Ilyas Dayee was killed in a targeted bomb attack.

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