RFE/RL distributing 20,000 self-powered radios in Afghanistan. (Psst: They also receive VOA.)

Posted: 18 Sep 2010   Print   Send a link
RFE/RL press release, 17 Sept 2010: "On the eve of parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, RFE's Radio Azadi -- with the help of the Afghan Air Force and U.S. military -- has launched a new initiative to help Afghans participate in the democratic process by having access to reliable news and information. At a refugee camp outside Kabul yesterday, Radio Azadi staff began handing out the first of 20,000 solar-powered, hand-cranked radios to Afghans who live in remote places or lack the means to access news and information. More than 2,000 radios were delivered this week to Afghans in the provinces of Logar, Shamali, Parwan, Kapisa, and Kabul. Over the next few weeks, the Afghan Air Force will distribute the remaining radios via Mi-17 helicopters to isolated villages throughout the rest of the country."

AP, 17 Sept 2010, Dusan Stojanovic: "The idea is to counter the Taliban-sponsored stations - the so called 'Mullah Radios' - that operate mainly in the tribal areas along the Pakistani border and broadcast propaganda that helps turn public opinion against foreign troops and the pro-Western Afghan government. ... [RFE/RL spokesman Julian] Knapp, said the dial on the distributed radios will not be fixed to Radio Azadi's frequency. 'They can choose to listen to whatever they wish,' he said, 'but we believe they'll listen to the truth.'"

Unmentioned in these articles is that the radios can also receive VOA's Radio Ashna broadcasts in Dari and Pashto to Afghanistan, which share time with RFE/RL's Radio Azadi on the same medium wave and FM frequencies. Just for fun, VOA should issue a press release stating that more than 20,000 solar powered radios have been distributed in Afghanistan (leave out the part about them being distributed by RFE/RL personnel), enabling reception of Radio Ashna, making no mention whatsoever of Radio Azadi. This should thoroughly confuse the US news media, to the great amusement of all.

Remember our motto: The fraternal entities under the Broadcasting Board of Governors support, commend, and congratulate each other, and wish each other to jump off a cliff.

From the photos, it appears the radio being distributed is the Etón FR160, which receives medium wave and FM, but not shortwave. That's OK as long as the Azadi/Ashna medium wave and FM relays are still available in Afghanistan. The FR160 is assembled in China. It also receives the US NOAA weather frequencies, which are unavailable in Afghanistan, but might offer an opportunity for additional specialty broadcasts. See previous post about Radio Azadi.

Antiwar.com, 17 Sept 2010, Jason Ditz: "[T]hough [RFE/RL] claims its goals are to stand as a surrogate where there is no freedom of the press, their operations in Afghanistan began in the wake of the 2001 US invasion and their operations in the nation seem aimed primarily toward furthering the goals of the floundering NATO occupation, and countering a number of rival radio stations set up by the Taliban to spread their own message. ... But given that the existing radio stations it is designed to compete with are, by and large, Taliban propaganda stations many Afghans are liable to be savvy enough to recognize that they are being pitched to, regardless of who is doing the pitching." -- Presumably RFE/RL Radio Azadi is broadcasting news rather than messages trying to further any goals. But Jason Ditz is correct that the audience will "recognize that they are being pitched to," if any pitching is attempted.