Two Afghan men in white traditional pakol hats listen to a portable radio
Afghan men listen to a radio broadcast by the Voice of the Caliphate station run by Islamic State in December 2015. (RFE/RL)

Radio still vital for many RFE/RL audiences

On UNESCO World Radio Day on Feb. 13, RFE/RL audiences gave the platform a resounding endorsement as a powerful medium and an indispensable source of information and news.

In an era when television and online media are increasingly dominant, radio continues to play a vital role for half of RFE/RL’s 27 million-strong audience. When RFE/RL asked listeners in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Moldova, and Georgia what radio means to them, hundreds of calls, emails, social media messages and SMSs flooded into its broadcast services.

A female listener of Radio Mashaal, which has 800,000 Pashto-speaking listeners in Pakistan’s tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, wrote, “Radio Mashaal is like my mother, who gave me knowledge and awareness and taught me humanity.” A listener of RFE/RL’s Afghan Service wrote, “I congratulate all the journalists at Radio Azadi for upholding its name for 15 years by delivering programs that contribute to our freedom.” One of the 2 million listeners to Radio Farda, RFE/RL’s service Iran, said, “It has been 10 years now that Radio Farda has been my companion,” adding, “it is the only place [where] people are allowed to talk easily and freely… a democratic soul guides Radio Farda.”

A Georgian sociologist who listens to Radio Tavisupleba said, “Radio is alive and we need it,” while a civil servant in Moldova wrote of Radio Europa Libera that it’s “the only place I can get something besides lies and propaganda.”

Remarking on the enduring relevance of radio in Central Asia, Umed Babakhanov, the founder of Tajikistan’s independent news agency Asia-Plus, told an RFE/RL podcast that “Since Soviet times radio has always been the most important mass media” in the agrarian societies of Central Asia, where “people in the field cannot watch TV, but they can listen to the radio all day long.” He said the role of foreign broadcasters is as important as it was during the Soviet era since it’s “almost impossible” to express criticism of the government on domestic-run platforms.

RFE/RL is also marking the one-year anniversary of Radio Donbas.Realities, a live, daily one-hour FM broadcast that brings coverage of local and international news stories either ignored or misrepresented by pro-Kremlin media — about infrastructure, education, and the war — to more than 15 cities in Ukraine’s war-torn eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

About RFE/RL

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty is a private, independent international news organization whose programs — radio, Internet, television, and mobile — reach influential audiences in 23 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through the BBG.

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Contact Martins Zvaners
Deputy Director of Communications, Washington, DC