Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, reaching the largest combined audience of any radio broadcaster in Afghanistan, are helping Afghans engage with presidential candidates in the lead up to the August 20 presidential election.
VOA and RFE/RL, overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, both air in Dari and Pashto and will give audiences unprecedented access to
the candidates. RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan is hosting call-in shows where presidential candidates take questions from the audience, and is airing interviews with each of the 41 contenders. VOA’s Radio/TV Ashna will also interview the three top prospects, as well as Shahla Atta, one of two women in the running. The BBG broadcasters both produce programming in Dari and Pashto, the most widely spoken languages in Afghanistan.
On August 16, RFE/RL plans to co-host with Afghan State TV a debate
among presidential candidates including current president and leading
contender Hamid Karzai, who has declined to appear in other debates.
Radio Free Afghanistan Director Akbar Ayazi will moderate the debate,
which will be seen and heard nationwide.
Three days of live TV shows from Kabul will cap off VOA’s extensive
coverage, which also includes live radio shows, while RFE/RL plans 12
hours of live programming around the election, keeping voters informed
of the latest developments and analyzing them as they happen.
Broadcast media are critical sources of information for the largely
rural and illiterate people of Afghanistan. TV has expanded dramatically since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, but radio remains the nationwide medium of choice for daily news. Only word of mouth, with Afghans turning to friends, family, and tribal elders, rivals radio as a source of information.
VOA and RFE/RL are also highlighting the views and opinions of ordinary Afghans both within and outside the country. VOA will host a series of six talk shows broadcast from Kabul University and from a camp for internally displaced Afghans, and will feature reports from remote locations throughout Afghanistan. In-depth coverage has been examining topics from the role of religious leaders to the effect of young voters.
In addition, VOA’s Deewa Radio, targeted at the Afghan-Pakistan border
region, will report the attitudes of the two million Afghan refugees in Pakistan who are ineligible to vote, as well as the perspectives of
Afghans living in the United States.
VOA’s Persian News Network and Arabic-language Alhurra TV have sent
reporters to Kabul to cover the election for viewers in the Middle East, and broadcasts in many other languages will also focus on the election.
VOA and RFE/RL broadcast to Afghanistan a combined 24 hours a day on
radio in Dari, Pashto and Special English, and VOA broadcasts an
additional 6 hours a week on television. The programs are also available online. VOA and RFE/RL broadcasts reach over 56% of Afghans each week, almost 10 million people.
VOA also operates Deewa Radio with nine hours daily of live
Pashto-language programming targeted at the Afghan-Pakistan border region.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency, supervising all U.S. government-supported, civilian international broadcasting, whose mission is to promote freedom and democracy and to enhance understanding through multimedia communication of accurate, objective, and balanced news, information, and other programming about America and the world to audiences overseas. BBG broadcasting organizations include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti). BBG broadcasts reach over 175 million people worldwide on a weekly basis.