Rural Talk Radio Engages Pashtun Communities in Critical Dialogue
The radio programs provide Afghan citizens with information related to governance and citizen advocacy, with programming focused on democratic representation and grassroots governance. Media programs, especially radio, are a critical source of information for a population with a literacy rate less than 30 percent. More than 85 percent of Afghans own a radio, with more than 60 percent listening to radio programming every day.
Beginning in October, three radio programs have aired – “The Elections-The First Year,” “Tribal Talk Radio” and “The Journey.” “The Elections” features one-on-one interviews with incumbent members of parliament discussing their first year in office, followed by a listener call-in section. Using a roundtable format, “Tribal Talk Radio” brings together appointed and elected officials to engage in dialogue on community and regional issues, with listeners encouraged to call in with questions and discussion topics. The program “The Journey” follows six first-time parliamentarians through two weeks of their time in parliament, providing a window into the world of Afghan parliamentarians.
A key component of the radio programs has been the call-in segments, where citizens have a chance to share their thoughts on the broadcast episodes. These opportunities have allowed Afghans to discuss some of the most pressing problems in the country, including insecurity and corruption. Following a “Tribal Talk Radio” episode about warlords in Ghazni, callers from Helmand engaged in a discussion about the real cause of insecurity in the region. Callers from Zabul have cited local corruption and government ineffectiveness as barriers to poppy eradication in the provinces. At the same time, citizens have also expressed appreciation for the window into the world of their elected officials provided by the programs. One caller from Kandahar said of “The Journey” program, “I have listened to the programs and I think they are very helpful in obtaining information about my province’s MPs [members of parliament] or other provinces MPs lives and achievements. Thanks a lot.”
IRI’s radio program is a collaborative effort with the Moby Media Group’s Arakozia FM radio station, a Pashtu talk radio station reaching 1.5 million Afghans in 16 rural and semi-urban areas in 11 Pashtun provinces. Internews radio affiliates across the country assisted with the production of the radio shows, while radio towers built under the United States Agency for International Development-funded Local Governance and Community Development program helped broadcast the programs into rural communities.