Communication is the means by which people create their identity, both individual and collective. It underlies our sense of community and our sense of difference. In community radio, skills, sound, music and speech can be recorded, edited and produced using software tools with an intuitive user interface. Computers become devices for achieving creative production goals rather than tools for business and public administration.
Communication in Afghanistan
In rural Afghanistan radio is the only source of information about market prices for crops, election, and thus the only defence against speculators and extremists. It is used in agricultural extension programmes, as a vehicle for both formal and informal education, and it also plays an important role in the preservation of local language and culture in this country where the literacy level is 20 per cent. Ninty six per cent of the households have no access to electricity and a small number of people have access to print media and TV.
Introduction of community radio
The press law signed by the President Hamid Karzai in September, 2002 paved the way for independent radio stations in the country. Prior to that, even before the war and Soviet invasion, radio was a state monopoly and community radio did not exist. Now community radio in Afghanistan is not only creating an infrastructure but it is also bringing about a new culture of communication which will speed up social change.
In 2003-’04, Internews set up 15 independent radio stations in Afghanistan under its media development programme. This year, Internews is setting up 20 more as part of a national network of independent local radio stations and programming.
All of these 15 radio stations began broadcasting Internews’ national programme initiative Salaam Watandar, a three hour daily program of news and entertainment, delivered to the stations over satellite. Salaam Watandar includes the popular Ba
Khabar news program with a team of journalists, reporting from around the country as well as programmes on health, education, human rights and music. Currently, 43 per cent of the population is within the footprint of a locally-broadcast Salaam Watandar signal. Finally, Salaam Watandar is also broadcast on VTMerlin shortwave 11,795 kHz from 6AM-7.30AM and at 17,700 kHz from 6PM-7.30PM.
Contents of community radio
Three of the above mentioned radio stations, Radio Zohra, Radio Rabia Balkhi and Radio Sahar are women oriented radio stations and are supported by IMPACS, a Canadian NGO as the main partner and Internews as technical partner. These stations focuses on women’s affairs, health, education, children, parenting, leadership, and community issues.
In light of the upcoming national election in 2004, the stations will also educate women about the political and electoral process and the significance of women’s participation as voters and decision-makers.
The purpose of women station is “to give women a greater voice and to link and educate women around Afghanistan”. The programmes of the community stations are designed to address social development, responsibilities, to educate the community about their rights and to provide entertainment.
Radio stations in Afghanistan
Radio Arman, a Kabul based commercial radio station, set up by a group of Afghan-Australian businessmen is also broadcasting 24 hours of music and entertainment for a specific group of Kabul audience.
Arman is one of the leading Kabul radio stations. UNESCO has supported a Kabul women radio station Radio Sadai Zani Afghan broadcasting a couple of hours for Kabul women with educational and informative programmes. SIARA, an Afghan NGO has supported a campus radio in Hirat city, the radio station is run by student of journalism and programs include talk shows by students.
BBC has recently launched a new programme called Barayee Afghanistan for Afghanistan, targeting Afghan audience with contains about Afghanistan. BBC is also available on FM in most parts of the country.