Remnants of the ousted Taleban regime in Afghanistan are launching a radio station to broadcast their extremist propaganda. According to news reports, the Voice of Shariat will be heard in Dari and Pashto, the main Afghan languages. But it has stiff competition.
When the Taleban seized power in 1996, they prohibited the broadcasting of music. News and information were tightly controlled. After the regime was overthrown by a U.S.-led coalition in late 2001, independent Afghan media were revived. Habibullah Rafie is an Afghan journalist. He says, "In December 2001, after the fall of the Taleban, we started from absolute zero. Since then," says Mr. Rafie, "media development has been unparalleled in our history."
Today in Afghanistan there are more than forty independent radio stations and eight private television channels. Arman FM is a pop music station that says it is listened to by up to eighty-percent of the population of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital. Saad Mohsini, the station's director, says the aim "was to target the younger generation." And, he says "we have been extremely successful." Arman FM is expanding its broadcasts to five other Afghan cities.
There is still much for Afghans to do in the way of developing free media. Siamak Herawi works in the communications office of Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president. Mr. Herawi says that while the Afghan media are free, "sometimes there is self-censorship because of problems that arise from Afghanistan's current conditions. For example," says Mr. Herawi, "a number of journalists fear that if they tell the truth, they will possibly be threatened." Vincent Brossel of the Reporters Without Borders monitoring group says the enemies in Afghanistan are those "who do not tolerate the assertion of pluralistic news and information."
While independent media are being established, "Afghanistan still faces many challenges," says U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
"We believe that the future of a new democratic Afghanistan that is no longer a haven for terrorists is absolutely essential to American security."
Referring to the Afghan people, Secretary of State Rice says, "sometimes we just have to step back and give people credit for how much they have already achieved."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.