Taliban take off air Radio Free Europe's Afghan service and VOA
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Taliban government has announced a ban on FM radio broadcasts from Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) stations in Afghanistan, citing complaints they have received about programming content.
The ban was enforced on December 1, according to a directive issued by the Taliban’s ministry of information and culture.
Taliban spokespeople have not provided further details about the alleged complaints they say they have received about the US-funded news programmes.
It is also unclear whether the ban will apply to other international broadcasters that have used the same system for FM broadcasts in Afghanistan.
The Taliban authorities on Thursday also removed from the airwaves US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Afghanistan service, which has vowed not to comply with the country's Islamist rulers.
Azadi, which means "liberty," broadcasts in Dari and Pashto and, since the Taliban takeover last year, has partly dedicated efforts to providing educational programming for girls barred from school.
Abdul Haq Hammad, a Taliban information ministry official, wrote on Twitter that Azadi was being taken off the air for "non-compliance with journalist principles and one-sided coverage."
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is funded by the US Congress but editorially independent, confirmed that Azadi was taken off the AM and FM dials and vowed to expand efforts so Afghans can access the service through other means.
"Azadi is a lifeline for tens of millions of Afghans, making the Taliban's decision all the more tragic," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty president Jamie Fly said in a statement.
"RFE/RL will not change our editorial line to accommodate Taliban demands in order to stay on the air. We know from experience that our audiences make great efforts to find us," Fly said.
The broadcaster cited a US government survey that said that half of Afghans accessed Azadi content each week.
Azadi was set up after the United States toppled the Taliban regime following the September 11, 2001 attacks and it closed its physical bureau after the Taliban returned to power last year amid the US pullout.
Azadi has kept operating from outside Afghanistan including through programming for girls from ages seven to 12 and coverage of the plight under the Taliban of women and girls and the LGBTQ community.
VOA’s Afghan services broadcast 12 hours a day on 15 FM channels and two medium wave (MW) channels, with programming split between Pashto and Dari.
It wasn’t immediately clear how much of the audience in Afghanistan will be affected by the FM ban. Dari and Pashto radio programs, first started in the 1980s, reach millions of listeners across Afghanistan and are widely respected as credible and reliable.
VOA also reaches a large Afghan audience via digital media. In March, the Taliban stopped VOA’s Ashna TV news shows, which had been broadcast on Afghan National Television, Tolo, Tolo News and Lamar for a decade, VOA Pashto reported.
Since the Taliban reclaimed power in August 2021, dozens of private television channels, radio stations and print media have reportedly ceased operations because of economic hardships and Taliban restrictions.
With inputs from AFP.