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Archive for Monday, October 8, 2001

VOA expanding Afghan broadcasts

October 8, 2001

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— The Voice of America is expanding its radio broadcasts into Afghanistan and attempting to explain U.S. war aims while avoiding overt propaganda, such as calls for Afghan soldiers to defect, VOA officials said Sunday.

Starting tonight, the VOA will begin delivering two hours and 15 minutes of news and commentary per day in each of Afghanistan's two main languages, Pashtu and Dari. That is an increase of 30 minutes in each tongue.

Sunday, President Bush's speech announcing U.S. airstrikes was broadcast live by the VOA in English and translated into numerous languages, including Pashtu, Dari, Arabic and Farsi. VOA also broadcast a three-and-a-half minute editorial Sunday night explaining America's military goals and the rationale behind Bush's policy, said Robert R. Reilly, who read the editorial.

"The point of it is, the United States was already the largest contributor of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people," Reilly said. "The United States is now going to accelerate its effort to do for them what the Taliban regime has failed to, which is feed them and get medicine to them."

VOA also will carry daily "crime alerts," in both Dari and Pashtu, noting that the United States is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to bin Laden's arrest, Reilly said.

The U.S. military campaign comes at a time of controversy over VOA's role and degree of independence. Some members of Congress think the government-funded radio station, which broadcasts in 61 languages, should be more of an advocate for American interests. But VOA's professional staff has long maintained that it will lose credibility, and listeners, unless it reports the news in an objective manner.

Myrna Whitworth, the VOA's acting director, maintained Monday that the VOA is doing a good job of serving Afghan listeners, most of whom lack television sets and receive their news by shortwave radio. "I think we have illustrated that VOA is the best vehicle for providing information to the people of Afghanistan," she said.

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