Afghan media background, 18 October
10/18/2001 BBC Monitoring
Source: BBC Monitoring research,
[Correcting US PsyOps radio broadcasting times from gmt to local time; updating information on Kabul and Balkh radio and Voice of Russia's services to South Asia.]
Since the US-led air attacks against the Taleban and Usamah Bin-Ladin in Afghanistan began on Sunday 7 October, the Taleban's telecommunications facilities have been targeted and radio transmitters destroyed near the capital Kabul. The Taleban-controlled Radio Voice of Shari'ah from Kabul has been off the air since Monday 8 October, but, it has not been confirmed whether the station was evacuated or hit by air strikes. Taleban provincial radio from northern Balkh Province radio, has continued to be observed by BBC Monitoring, and was still on the air on 15 October. As the only foreign TV station allowed to operate in Taleban-controlled areas, the Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera has secured numerous exclusives on the Afghan crisis. It broadcast live images of US air attacks and the damage they caused. Hours later, it aired a statement from a defiant Bin-Ladin, whom the US government has accused of masterminding the 11 September attacks against the United States.
Afghan Islamic Press news agency in Pakistan, which has close links to the Taleban, has also provided exclusive information on Taleban-held areas.
But for most Afghans, who have virtually no access to the Internet, TV or foreign newspapers, radio is a lifeline. Many international broadcasters have responded by expanding their services to the region.
Inside Afghanistan, other radio broadcasts have been set up. The US government is using military aircraft for radio broadcasts to Afghanistan. A French organization has helped launch an FM station close to Kabul.
US RADIO PROPAGANDA BROADCASTS
The Taleban's main radio station around Kabul, Radio Voice of Shari'ah, has been off the air since 8 October, a day after US-led air strikes began. This has cleared the airwaves around the capital for a US propaganda offensive.
A US special forces aircraft designed for psychological operations or PsyOps known as Commando Solo has dropped leaflets and begun radio broadcasts to Afghanistan. The broadcasts are in Dari and Pashto - the two main languages in Afghanistan - and are aimed at winning Afghan support for US military action against Usamah Bin-Ladin and his Al-Qa'idah group.
Although the station has not formally identified itself, leaflets dropped along with food aid by US planes announced the broadcast of "Information Radio". The leaflets say the broadcasts are from 0500-1000 gmt and from 1700-2200 gmt daily on the frequencies 864 kHz mediumwave (Kandahar frequency); 1107 kHz mediumwave (Kabul frequency); on shortwave, 8700 kHz upper sideband, a frequency not previously used in Afghanistan.
"Attention please, people of Afghanistan. The United States forces are passing over your country. We did not come here to harm you. We just came here to capture Usamah Bin-Ladin, Al-Qa'idah and those who support Usamah Bin-Ladin. Please don't take part in any military action and keep away from roads and bridges. Stay at home. We did not come here to colonize your country or to loot your country. Stay safe, stay indoors," the broadcast said.
One broadcast stated: "The coalition countries want to prove to you and other Muslims in the world that the aim of this war is not to eliminate Islam.
"We want to bring to justice those who have shown disrespect to the name of Prophet Mohammad, may God's peace and blessing be upon him and his family, and to God Almighty and Islam."
Further excerpts of US PsyOps broadcasts are posted on the USA Today web site: http://www.usatoday.com.
At a US Department of Defence briefing on 15 October, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: "...Through leaflet drops, which began this weekend [13-14 October], and radio broadcasts into Afghanistan, we're working to make clear to the Afghan people that we support them, and we want to help free their nation from the grip of the Taleban and their foreign terrorist allies."
In the week before air strikes began, CNN quoted Pentagon sources as saying the US was considering airdropping radios -possibly wind-up radios capable of receiving only one frequency - into Afghanistan to allow citizens to hear broadcasts produced by the State Department or the US military. When asked whether the US had begun airdropping radios, Rumsfeld on 15 October said "I don't think we have yet. There was talk about that, but I don't think it's happened."
When Taleban forces entered Kabul in 1996, the state broadcaster Radio Afghanistan was renamed Radio Voice of Shari'ah (Islamic law) and became the sole broadcaster operating in Kabul and provincial centres. It is largely a platform for official propaganda and religious sermons and claims to be the only broadcaster in the world where music of any kind is banned -only a cappella singing is permitted.
Kabul radio off the air
Radio Voice of Shari'ah from Kabul, which is usually on the air from 0130-0400 and 1230-1800 gmt, has remained unheard on any of its three frequencies - 657 kHz and 1107 kHz mediumwave and 7085 kHz (variable) shortwave - since 1610 gmt on 8 October.
Forty minutes before reception of the domestic and external services was lost, the Kabul radio broadcast in English on 8 October at 1530 gmt contained a report that Taleban commanders in Kabul Province would "fight until their last drop of blood against the United States and other invaders".
Radio Voice of Shari'ah has stations in Taleban-controlled provinces, including Badghis (northwest), Balkh (north, where the strategic city of Mazar-e Sharif is located), Farah (west), Fariab (northwest), Ghazni (central), Helmand (south), Herat (west), Kandahar (south), Konar (east), Logar (central), Nimroz (southwest), Samangan (north) and Sar-e Pol (north). However, some of these provinces, particularly in the north and northwest, are under threat from anti-Taleban forces.
Balkh radio still on the air
Radio Voice of Shari'ah of Balkh Province continues to be heard by BBC Monitoring. It is monitored daily from approximately 1230-1500 and 0230-0425 gmt.
Pentagon says radio station near Kabul destroyed
The US Defence Department briefing at the Pentagon on 11 October - a transcript of which is available at http://www.defenselink.mil - showed photographic evidence of a "radio station" in Kabul destroyed. But Marine Corps Maj-Gen Henry P. Osman, who is director for Operational Plans and Joint Force Development, was unable to say whether the radio station was a broadcast or military station.
TV, PRESS, NEWS AGENCIES AND THE INTERNET
Afghanistan's media have been seriously restricted in freedom of expression and range since the Taleban came to power in 1996.
In 1998, the Taleban banned TV as a "source of moral corruption" and regard music as suspect. Photography and filming are also banned. Afghans are barred from accessing the Internet. However, the Taleban have set up a web site, http://www.afghan-ie.com, to push for recognition of their regime by the international community. This web site has been inaccessible for some time.
The leading newspaper is Shari'at, http://www.shariatonline.net, a government-run daily. The Taleban government also runs the English-language daily Kabul Times. Most news in the press comes from the government and official news agencies.
The main national news agency is the Bakhtar Information Agency, long established but now controlled by the Taleban.
In 1997, the Taleban announced a ban on the sale of books and magazines published abroad. Since then, Afghans have been deprived of Pakistani and western newspapers. According to a Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) annual report in 2000, the only newspaper authorized by the Kabul authorities is Zarbe Momin, an Urdu-language weekly published in Karachi, Pakistan, which supports the Taleban cause.
Despite a television ban, the Taleban have reportedly installed modern satellite dishes in their Kandahar and Kabul offices to monitor foreign television. The Pakistani newspaper Jang said the Taleban embassy in Islamabad has also set up television monitoring.
The Northern Alliance, opposed to the Taleban, runs the Internet-only Radio Voice of Mojahed (http:///www.payamemujahid.com/radio/index.htm), which broadcasts via the Internet three days per week in Pashto and Dari.
The Northern Alliance also broadcasts news by loudspeaker in the towns of Charikar, Jabal os Saraj and Golbahor, which are located in Parvan Province, northwest of Kabul.
In the past, the Northern Alliance operated Takhar Radio, in Taloqan, northeastern Takhar Province.
After the US attacks began, Radio Solh (Radio Peace), a new FM radio station, started broadcasting from Jabal os Saraj, Parvan Province. Founded with the help of a Paris-based organization, Droit de Parole, a report by French news agency AFP said the station will broadcast initially for three hours a day on 96 MHz FM, and it will cover an area within a 40-km radius.
AFP said the station, known as Radio Solh, was audible "around the current front line, on the same side as the armed opposition to the Taleban - an area with around 150,000 inhabitants." "It broadcasts music, which is banned by the Kabul regime, is aimed at women and even has a female presenter," AFP said.
"But subsequently, Droit de Parole, which has made a one-year financial commitment, before handing over to the Afghans, hopes 'to broadcast to Kabul and the Panshir Valley' with the 'imminent' setting up of a more powerful transmitter, placed on top of a mountain," AFP added.
According to the USA's Philadelphia Inquirer, China has donated two shortwave transmitters to the Northern Alliance, which are scheduled to arrive in November.
TV AND PRESS
The only domestic television broadcasting in Afghanistan is in Feyzabad, capital of northeastern Badakhshan Province, which is under Northern Alliance control. The station, calling itself TV Badakhshan, broadcasts programmes in Dari and Pashto. However, reception is weak and irregular. The station broadcasts for two hours a day, from 1900 to 2100 local time and sometimes until 2300. It can be seen within a 40-km radius of the town. A daily news bulletin includes news from BBC World TV and Iranian TV.
Tajikistan and Iran may become key bases for anti-Taleban media, as both governments are sympathetic to the Northern Alliance. Tajik and Iranian radio broadcast in Dari to Afghanistan.
The Northern Alliance publishes an on-line weekly magazine Payam-e-Mojahed, http://www.payamemujahid.com, from Parvan Province, Afghanistan, in Pashto and Dari.
FOREIGN MEDIA COVERAGE OF AFGHAN CRISIS
Al-Jazeera (The Peninsula), a popular Qatar-based satellite TV news channel known for its hard-hitting coverage, has secured numerous exclusives on the Afghan crisis. It is the only foreign broadcaster allowed to operate in Taleban-controlled Afghanistan.
As the US-led aerial attacks on Afghanistan began on 7 October, live footage of the scene in the skies above Kabul shot by Al-Jazeera TV's crew in Kabul was transmitted worldwide via CNN.
It again made the headlines a few hours later on 7 October when it broadcast a pre-recorded video message by Usamah Bin-Ladin and his aides. His statement did not claim responsibility for the 11 September attacks. But he expressed his support for those who carried it out. Al-Jazeera said the statement was videotaped after 11 September but did not give a specific date.
The channel continues to carry live dispatches and interviews via satellite from Kabul with its correspondent Taysir Alluni. However, on 13 October, Alluni said: "We have not been allowed here in Kabul to take any pictures. We told you earlier that our movements are restricted so as not to photograph any military targets."
Access to Bin-Ladin
Usamah Bin-Ladin has often used Al-Jazeera as a platform to communicate his views to the world, prompting the US government to express concerns to the Qatari Emir over the channel's exclusive access to Bin-Ladin and his Al-Qa'idah organization.
On 10 October, the US government asked US TV networks to use their judgement in deciding whether to air taped statements by Bin-Ladin, supplied by Al-Jazeera - either in their entirety or parts of them - for fear that they might contain coded messages to terrorists in waiting. On 7 October, television stations worldwide broadcast Al-Jazeera's footage of Bin-Ladin's statement. US TV networks on 9 October rebroadcast another taped statement supplied by Al-Jazeera, this time by Al-Qa'idah spokesman Sulayman Abu-Ghayth.
However, Al-Jazeera has continued to air Al-Qa'idah statements. On 13 October, it broadcast another statement by Abu-Ghayth warning United States and Britain that Al-Qai'dah would "burn the land beneath their feet" unless they left the Arabian Peninsula. He also warned American and British Muslims, as well as children and opponents of the US attacks on Al-Qai'dah and the Taleban, not to travel by plane or live in high-rise buildings.
AFGHAN ISLAMIC PRESS
Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) is a Pashto-language news agency, based in the Pakistan border town of Peshawar that provides good coverage of breaking news. It has provided exclusive information on targets bombed by US forces and civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
AIP sends its reports out in Urdu by fax to its clients, and will also telephone news agencies to inform them of breaking news.
AIP, like Al-Jazeera, has close access to the Taleban. On 13 October, an unidentified person from Kandahar read a statement by the Taleban leader, Mola Mohammad Omar, via satellite telephone to AIP's office in Peshawar. AIP subsequently read Mola Omar's statement to BBC Monitoring on the telephone, which called on Muslims of the world to support Islam and not President Bush. Mola Omar's message read: "Our sin is that we have imposed an Islamic system in our country and have given protection to a homeless Muslim, oppressed, who cannot even find a place in any part of the world to sit for an hour."
FOREIGN BROADCASTERS EXPAND SERVICES
Since domestic radio news is censored in Afghanistan, many Afghans listen to radio from neighbouring countries, and international broadcasters such as Voice of America (VOA), BBC and Deutsche Welle. In response to the Afghan crisis, some international broadcasters have increased their services to the Middle East, Afghanistan and surrounding regions.
In September, following the attacks in New York and Washington, the Voice of America (VOA) expanded news broadcasts in Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Pashto and Urdu to the Middle East and South and Central Asia (including Afghanistan). On 8 October, VOA again added an extra 30 minutes to its Dari and Pashto-language broadcasts to Afghanistan.
However, VOA came under pressure from the US Department of State not to air a story that included parts of a rare interview with the Taleban leader, Mola Mohammad Omar. The Washington Post said the US government objected to a public broadcaster being a platform for "terrorists". VOA later broadcast the interview.
California Republican Congressman Ed Royce on 2 October drafted a bill, which would allocate 14m dollars over two years to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to begin surrogate broadcasts into Afghanistan. His bill has attracted bipartisan support and he predicts the House of Representatives will soon pass it.
A previous US-funded Radio Free Afghanistan broadcast between 1985 and 1993 in Dari and Pashto for up to two hours a day on shortwave.
Radio Canada International (RCI) does not broadcast in the languages of Afghanistan, but it has added a frequency to that country in its English transmission at 0630-0730 local time [0200-0300 gmt] in Afghanistan.
The BBC World Service on 20 September reinforced its mediumwave transmissions, with an additional frequency, serving a large part of the region surrounding and including Afghanistan. Shortwave transmissions to the region in Arabic, Pashto, Persian and Urdu - the key languages of the region - have also been expanded.
News and current affairs content in the usually mixed schedules of each language service have been boosted and on-line coverage in these languages has been increased.
Survey work before the crisis indicates that some 72 per cent of Pashto language speakers and some 62 per cent of Persian speakers in Afghanistan listen daily to the BBC World Service. The Urdu-language service has an estimated audience of more than 15 million in Pakistan. VOA and Deutsche Welle are also widely listened to in Afghanistan.
On 5 October, BBC World Service launched BBC World Service Extra, a 24-hour digital satellite TV news service to UK listeners who speak the key languages of the Middle East, South Asia and Afghanistan.
Deutsche Welle (DW) on 21 September increased its services in Dari and Pashto by 30 minutes to a total of 110 minutes daily. Programming for Pakistan in Urdu increased by 30 minutes to a total of 75 minutes daily.
Afghan refugees living in Germany and Europe can receive the satellite broadcast (via HotBird) from DW Radio in Dari and Pashto. The offering is available worldwide in these languages from DW On-line (in the future DW-World) as audio-on-demand on the Internet at http://www.dwelle.de.
Radio France Internationale (RFI) on 21 September added an extra half-hour of programmes in Persian targeted at Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan and the whole of the Central Asia region.
The Voice of Russia on 22 September added an extra hour to its combined Dari/Pashto service, half an hour to its Persian service and half an hour to its Urdu service.
A new broadcast by Radio Pakistan in Dari, targeted at listeners in Afghanistan, was launched on 12 October. The inaugural "Nawa-e Dost" (or Nawa-i-Dost, Sound of a Friend) programme, broadcast from Radio Pakistan's Peshawar station, was monitored by BBC Monitoring on 540 kHz mediumwave; a shortwave frequency has also been announced. Radio Pakistan says that the Dari-language programme "will prove an important source of current affairs for listeners from far-flung areas of Afghanistan".
NHK Radio Japan on 11 October introduced a 24-hour "emergency" service in Japanese and extra transmissions in English for the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and surrounding regions.
Tajik Radio, Radio Tashkent (Uzbekistan), China Radio International, All India Radio and Radio Cairo also broadcast in Pashto and Dari/Persian to Afghanistan.
There are also a number of radio stations run by Afghan expatriates, mainly in North America, which broadcast in Pashto/Dari. The US-based Azadi Afghan Radio, whose broadcasts in Dari are available on-line at http://www.afghanradio.com/, has interviewed Northern Alliance leaders including the late Ahmad Shah Masud, as well as associates of the exiled King Zaher Shah.
Compiled by Foreign Media Unit, BBC Monitoring
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