World Radio Day: UN in Afghanistan vows to support national media

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13 Feb 2023

World Radio Day: UN in Afghanistan vows to support national media

KABUL - The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, has expressed her support for Afghan media and journalists and reiterated the need for the de facto authorities to reverse bans on female workers.

The UN envoy and UNESCO Representative, Patricia McPhillips, renewed UN support to Afghan media with a visit to Radio Salam Watandar, one of the most far-reaching radio networks in the country, marking World Radio Day, devoted to the importance of the medium in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

“I hope that Afghan radio stations will continue to play a role in promoting peace and healthy discourse to prevent conflicts and foster peace. Your programmes are like air. People need air as much as food”, said Otunbayeva.

“The UN supports media freedom and access to information,” reiterated UNESCO Representative.

Radio is the primary source of information among Afghans, with 80.4% of the population being regular listeners and 72.1% owning a radio, according to the most recent available survey (Afghanistan Media Landscape Guide APRIL 2022: CDAC Network). Afghanistan’s first domestic radio broadcast was in 1925, with Radio Kabul being the first station in the country.

“Radio is and has always been an important medium of information for the people of Afghanistan, especially those living in the remote parts of the country. They do not have access to others means of information. It is cheap and one can easily get connected to the rest of the world,” said Ahmadullah Kamin, a local resident of Kandahar city.

In Kabul, it is mostly listened to in the car. “Radio is very useful for me to keep myself informed. Because I am driving most of the time and I can’t afford internet or smartphone and don’t have much time to watch TV. My customers also enjoy listening to radio. Before they were mostly interested in music, but now they just have news on my radio while traveling in my Taxi,” said a taxi driver in the capital.

The director of Kandahar Tabasum Radio highlights the importance of radio for women: “I know a case of a girl who used radio for learning and getting education. Despite the financial challenges, radio is still leading as an important tool to educate people about various issues.” 

According to the Afghan Independent Journalists Union (AIJU), there are around 223 radio stations currently operating across the country.  

AIJU reported that in the beginning of 2021 there were 401 radios operating in the country. By the end of that year the number had dropped to 345. A total of 1,900 media workers, including 1,075 women, lost their jobs.

Zarif Karimi, acting head of Nai - Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan said, “We had remarkable achievements in terms of free media during the past two decades with sacrificing the lives of over 150 journalists.”

UN envoy Otunbayeva regretted that recent edicts targeting women by Afghanistan’s de facto authorities, have upended that progress.

“I call on the de facto authorities to reverse these restrictions,” she said.

World Radio Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly (A/RES/67/124) in 2012 as an International Day. At the global level, radio remains the most widely consumed medium.