P.J. O'Rourke: RFE/RL's Radio Azadi has "no agenda except to be factual."

Posted: 24 Aug 2010   Print   Send a link
The Weekly Standard, 30 August 2010 issue, P.J. O'Rourke: "There must be something in Afghanistan that we’ve got right. There is. Radio Azadi, the Afghan bureau of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, is on the air 12 hours a day, seven days a week, half the time in Pashto, half the time in Dari. What Radio Azadi does is known as 'surrogate broadcasting,' meaning the content is Afghan-produced as a way for Afghans to get news and views in a place where otherwise they have to be delivered mostly face-to-face. And there is no agenda except to be factual (although facts are an agenda item if you care about freedom, which is what Azadi means in Dari). ... The Pashtun tribal leader said, 'Azadi is doing very well because they are telling the facts.' He griped that other media were insensitive to religion and culture. ... The governor [of an Afghan province] ... recalled the days before Radio Azadi, during Taliban rule, when the only outside media was the BBC Afghan service. 'The Taliban told people that they would go to hell if they listened to the BBC. Then everyone listened.'"

A typically funny P.J. O'Rourke essay, although it has sort of a Huckleberry Finn ending.

Radio Azadi deserves all the praise that O'Rourke heaped upon it. He, however, made no mention of Radio Ashna, VOA's service to Afghanistan, in Dari and Pashto eight hours a day on the same medium wave and FM frequencies as Radio Azadi. Unless Radio Ashna is one of the "other media" that are "insensitive to religion or culture."

In the "days before Radio Azadi," the BBC Afghan Service was not the only outside medium. The VOA Dari and Pashto services were active during the Taliban rule. In fact, a 1999 survey of Afghan males showed that 80 percent of them listened weekly to VOA. VOA was rewarded for this success by the creation, in 2002, of Radio Free Afghanistan, local name Radio Azadi, under RFE/RL.

(Also before Radio Azadi, during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, was another Radio Free Afghanistan, 1985-1993, under RFE/RL, supporting some of the people that the present Radio Free Afghanistan opposes.)

Surely the deafening silence about VOA Radio Ashna can't be attributed to lax reporting. O'Rourke used the words tribe or tribal about 45 times in his article. US international broadcasting is also tribal. By way of the O'Rourke essay, praising Azadi and ignoring Ashna, the Azadi tribe stole a few of the Ashna tribe's PR points. The fraternal entities under the Broadcasting Board of Governors support, commend, and congratulate each other, and wish each other to jump off a cliff.

See previous post about P.J. O'Rourke's visit to RFE/RL in Prague.