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Radio Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s independent media is growing, says a report from the U.S. Institute of Peace. So I’m a little slow on…

By Leslie Young , in 21st Century State-Building Blogs , on January 22, 2008

Afghanistan’s independent media is growing, says a report from the U.S. Institute of Peace.

So I’m a little slow on picking up this story, but I still think it’s worth writing about.

The report hails the development of independent media outlets in Afghanistan as a “relative success story.” It highlights the role that media can play in bringing people together, by exposing people to a diversity of opinions and allowing them to participate in debate about public issues. In this way, media can help reinforce a fledgling democracy.

Radio is Afghanistan’s medium of choice. The country has a very low literacy rate, (43% for men and 13% for women) so newspapers are not very popular. Unreliable power makes television unpopular too. But, with a cheap radio, most Afghans can listen in on their news, or quiz shows, or music.

Unlike in Bosnia and Iraq, Afghan media seems to be helping to bring people together, instead of reinforcing cultural and linguistic divides. Afghans are making their own local shows and syndicating them across the country.

Afghanistan’s journalists are having a rough time of late, despite all these positive developments. Not only are Afghan reporters being threatened, beaten and killed, but Afghanistan’s government appears to be doing little about it. This is a growing problem.

If Afghanistan’s media are really doing all these great things for the country, it’s a problem that should be looked into.