Media of Afghanistan

Media of Afghanistan

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The media of Afghanistan is in the development stage, which includes printing, broadcasting and digital
Digital media
Digital media is a form of electronic media where data is stored in digital form. It can refer to the technical aspect of storage and transmission Digital media is a form of electronic media where data is stored in digital (as opposed to analog) form. It can refer to the technical aspect of...

. It is mainly in Pashto
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

 and Dari (Persian)
Dari (Persian)
Dari or Fārsī-ye Darī in historical terms refers to the Persian court language of the Sassanids. In contemporary usage, the term refers to the dialects of modern Persian language spoken in Afghanistan, and hence known as Afghan Persian in some Western sources. It is the term officially recognized...

 languages. Although it was tightly controlled under the Taliban government
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was founded in 1996 when the Taliban began their rule of Afghanistan and ended with their fall from power in 2001...

 from 1996 to late 2001, the state media gradually relaxed press restriction and private media began growing rapidly. In 2008, Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders is a France-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press. It was founded in 1985, by Robert Ménard, Rony Brauman and the journalist Jean-Claude Guillebaud. Jean-François Julliard has served as Secretary General since 2008...

 listed the media environment of Afghanistan as 156 out of 173, with 1st being most free. Journalists in the country operate in one of the world's most complex and contested information environments. At times, the lines between propaganda, intelligence and journalism blur, and some journalists covering Taliban activities have been accused of treachery or arrested, while others have been kidnapped, beaten or harassed by Taliban insurgents
Taliban insurgency
The Taliban insurgency took root shortly after the group's fall from power following the 2001 war in Afghanistan. The Taliban continue to attack Afghan, U.S., and other ISAF troops and many terrorist incidents attributable to them have been registered. The war has also spread over the southern and...


Early History

The first newspaper, Siraj-ul-Akhbar (Lamp of the News) in was initially published on January 11, 1906, with Abd al-Rauf as editor. After this first and only issue in Dari (Persian)
Dari (Persian)
Dari or Fārsī-ye Darī in historical terms refers to the Persian court language of the Sassanids. In contemporary usage, the term refers to the dialects of modern Persian language spoken in Afghanistan, and hence known as Afghan Persian in some Western sources. It is the term officially recognized...

, its publication stopped. It was revived in October 1911 by Mahmud Tarzi
Mahmud Tarzi
Mahmūd Bēg Tarzī was one of Afghanistan's greatest intellectuals. He is known as the father of Afghan journalism...

, the editor and owner of the newspaper, who was critical of the friendship between the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and Afghanistan. Mahmud Tarzi became known as the pioneer of Afghan journalism
Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and...

. In 1919, under King Amanullah Khan
Amanullah Khan
Amanullah Khan was the King of the Emirate of Afghanistan from 1919 to 1929, first as Amir and after 1926 as Shah. He led Afghanistan to independence over its foreign affairs from the United Kingdom, and his rule was marked by dramatic political and social change...

, Aman-i-Afghan (Afghan Peace) replaced Siraj al-Akhbar, serving as an organ of the government, while several smaller private journals appeared under different ministries. Along with these developments, Radio Kabul
Radio Kabul
Radio Kabul is the official radio station of Afghanistan. The name Radio Kabul has been given to many different incarnations of the state-run radio station since the first radio transmitters were installed in Kabul in the 1920s....

 began broadcasting in 1925, which inaugurated a new era of mass media in the country. The 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan
Constitution of Afghanistan
The Constitution of Afghanistan is the supreme law of the state Afghanistan, which serves as the legal framework between the Afghan government and the Afghan citizens...

 and the Press Law of 1965 provided for freedom of the press, within the boundaries of appropriate behaviour. The press was editorially independent
Editorial independence
Editorial independence is the freedom of editors to make decisions without interference from the owners of a publication. Editorial independence is tested, for instance, if a newspaper runs articles that may be unpopular with its advertising clientele....

 from government but was instructed to safeguard the interests of the state and constitutional monarchy, Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, and public order. Afghan journalism progressed and developed from the 1950s through to the 1970s, though it remained limited.

When King Zahir Shah's government was overthrown in the 1973 coup his cousin Daoud Khan
Mohammed Daoud Khan
Sardar Mohammed Daoud Khan or Daud Khan was Prime Minister of Afghanistan from 1953 to 1963 and later becoming the President of Afghanistan...

, approximately 19 newspapers were shut down and media came under severe restriction, ending a period of relative freedom. The first colour television broadcasting appeared in 1978. The media fell into the control of Soviet influences during the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan
People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan
The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan was a communist party established on the 1 January 1965. While a minority, the party helped former president of Afghanistan, Mohammed Daoud Khan, to overthrow his cousin, Mohammed Zahir Shah, and established Daoud's Republic of Afghanistan...

 (PDPA) from 1979 to 1992.

Taliban Era

Media under the Taliban was characterised by strict media laws, including the banning of television, seen as "morally corrupt" and music, banned under Sharia law. The Taliban instigated the destruction of television sets in 1998. People caught with a television were subject to imprisonment or flogging. Most media operated from other countries, except for the Taliban free areas in Northern Afghanistan, which had its own television service, Badakhshan Television, broadcasting news and films for around 5,000 viewers for three hours a day. Television was shut down in 1996, and print media were forbidden to publish commentary, photos or readers letters. The only radio station broadcast religious programmes and propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

, and aired no music. Around 70% of the population listened to its broadcasts. In 2000, the government launched The Islamic Emirate, an English-language newspaper designed to counteract information produced by the "enemies of Islam". Only Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

 and Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

 had news bureaus based in Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

 due to instability. The Kabul TV centre was converted into a military barracks
Barracks are specialised buildings for permanent military accommodation; the word may apply to separate housing blocks or to complete complexes. Their main object is to separate soldiers from the civilian population and reinforce discipline, training and esprit de corps. They were sometimes called...

, and journalists were not permitted to work with foreign media. The media environment remained bleak until the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001.

Karzai Administration

The media has experienced explosive growth in post-Taliban Afghanistan, though quality has not always kept pace with quantity. Today dozens of private radio and TV stations and hundreds of newspapers and magazines are registered with the government. After the fall of the Taliban, television returned and many restrictive laws were repealed. As a consequence of such policies, Afghan journalists boycotted reporting on the Taliban for a week in April 2007. All media flourished under new rules, though journalists do undergo self-censorship
Self-censorship is the act of censoring or classifying one's own work , out of fear of, or deference to, the sensibilities of others, without overt pressure from any specific party or institution of authority...

; penalties are still in place for defaming individuals and running material contrary to the principles of Islam. Some government officials have used their positions to maintain their own communications facilities, as national and local governments own or control several dozen newspapers and many electronic media outlets. A 2004 media law prohibits censorship, but requires registration of periodicals with the Ministry of Information and Culture; in 2005 some 250 periodicals were registered. International organisations have been training new journalists since the fall of the Taliban. However, due to instability in Afghanistan, journalists have been as highly targeted as soldiers, as shown by instances of kidnapping and death threats. More than 100 journalists also protested a raid on a private TV station which drew concern of further government interference in reporting.

Afghanistan's largest independent news agency is Pajhwok Afghan News
Pajhwok Afghan News
Pajhwok Afghan News is a news agency established in March 2004 in Kabul, Afghanistan by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. It is Afghanistan's largest independent news service, providing broad-based coverage of news in English, Pashto and Dari...

, which was founded in 2004 by Afghan journalists who worked with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting
Institute for War and Peace Reporting
Institute for War & Peace Reporting is an international media development charity, established in 1991. It runs major programmes in Afghanistan, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, the Balkans, Congo DRC, Tunisia and Uganda...

, a London-based nonprofit that trains journalists in conflict zones and developing countries. Pajhwok has reporters in nearly ever Afghan province, and publishes stories online in Dari, Pashto and English. Bakhtar News Agency
Bakhtar News Agency
Bakhtar News Agency is the official state news agency of the Afghan government, based in Kabul. The agency is a major source of news for all media in Afghanistan, gathering domestic and international news and providing information to outlets....

, another wire service, is run by the Afghan government. Exiles have set up the Afghan Islamic Press
Afghan Islamic Press
Afghan Islamic Press is an Afghan news agency based in Peshawar, Pakistan. It was established 1982, during the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan, by Muhammad Yaqub Sharafat. Sharafat was the nephew of Maulavi Yunis Khales, one of the leaders of the anti-Soviet mujahideen guerrilla movement...

, based in Pakistan, and the Sahaar News Agency. Internet and mobile technology media is slowly growing in popularity.

Although many fewer Afghan women than men work as journalists, female Afghan reporters and editors are increasingly making their voices heard not just on traditionally "feminine" topics like education and health, but on larger issues affecting Afghanistan, such as the tension between tradition and modernity. Shukria Barakzai
Shukria Barakzai
Shukria Barakzai is an Afghan politician, journalist and entrepreneur, and a prominent Muslim feminist.-Early life:She was born in 1972 in Kabul, Afghanistan...

 founded the weekly bilingual Women's Voice to campaign for women's rights
Women's rights
Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...

. She was elected to the House of the People
House of the People (Afghanistan)
The House of the People or Wolesi Jirga , abbreviated WJ, is the lower house of the bicameral National Assembly of Afghanistan, alongside the House of Elders....

 (or Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the National Assembly of Afghanistan
National Assembly of Afghanistan
The National Assembly is Afghanistan's national legislature. It is a bicameral body, comprising two chambers:*Wolesi Jirga or the House of the People: the 250-member lower house.*Meshrano Jirga ) or the House of Elders: an upper house with 102 seats....

), and speaks up for hopes that a better and freer press will lead to strong democracy and civil society
Civil society
Civil society is composed of the totality of many voluntary social relationships, civic and social organizations, and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society, as distinct from the force-backed structures of a state , the commercial institutions of the market, and private criminal...


During the Afghan presidential election, 2009
Afghan presidential election, 2009
The 2009 presidential election in Afghanistan was characterized by lack of security, low voter turnout and widespread ballot stuffing, intimidation, and other electoral fraud....

 there were some reports of attacks on press freedom.


Afghanistan has a low readership of newspapers, coupled with the low 28.1% literacy rate. Many newspapers suffer some form of censorship
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

 and financial difficulty, often relying on supporters of President Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai, GCMG is the 12th and current President of Afghanistan, taking office on 7 December 2004. He became a dominant political figure after the removal of the Taliban regime in late 2001...

, or the former mujahadeen supporters of King Zahir Shah. The principal daily newspapers are the state-owned Anis, Arman-e Melli, Eslah, and Kabul Times
Kabul Times
The Kabul Times, established in 1962, was the first English language printed newspaper in Afghanistan.Following the 1978 coup, the Kabul Times was renamed New Kabul Times, and began to print Communist rhetoric that was reminiscent of days during the Cold War and was highly confrontative to the...

and the privately owned Afghanistan Group of Newspapers which includes Daily Outlook Afghanistan (the first English Newspaper of Afghanistan), Khaama Press
Khaama Press
Khaama Press, Afghan Online News Portal is one of the largest news portals established in October 2010 in Kabul, Afghanistan....

and The Daily Afghanistan in local languages of Dari and Pashto, Eradeh, Hewad, Ittefaq-e Islam, and Shari'at. The circulation of independent print publications
A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

 has been confined primarily to the Kabul region. About 400 publications are now registered in the country.

Television and Radio

Radio is the most widespread source of information in the country. There are an estimated 50 private radio stations, with AM, FM and shortwave, broadcasting mainly in Pashto and Dari as well as Urdu
Urdu is a register of the Hindustani language that is identified with Muslims in South Asia. It belongs to the Indo-European family. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan. It is also widely spoken in some regions of India, where it is one of the 22 scheduled languages and an...

 and English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. Radio Afghanistan was relaunched on November 13, 2001 in Kabul. In 2003 an estimated 37 percent of Afghan citizens, mainly in urban centers, had access to a local radio station. Arman FM, a private radio station, is most popular with younger citizens in Kabul. In the early 2000s, international non-governmental organizations supported establishment of more than a dozen new radio stations. Freedom House
Freedom House
Freedom House is an international non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C. that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights...

 estimates 60 local radio stations are currently running in the country. The BBC World Service
BBC World Service
The BBC World Service is the world's largest international broadcaster, broadcasting in 27 languages to many parts of the world via analogue and digital shortwave, internet streaming and podcasting, satellite, FM and MW relays...

, Voice of America
Voice of America
Voice of America is the official external broadcast institution of the United States federal government. It is one of five civilian U.S. international broadcasters working under the umbrella of the Broadcasting Board of Governors . VOA provides a wide range of programming for broadcast on radio...

, Radio Free Afghanistan
Radio Free Afghanistan
Radio Free Afghanistan is the Afghan branch of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty’s broadcast services. It broadcasts 12 hours daily as part of a 24 hour stream of programming in conjunction with Voice of America . RFA first aired in Afghanistan from 1985 to 1993 and was re-launched in January 2002...

 and others broadcast into Afghanistan as an additional source of news, in Pashto and Dari languages.

With a combination of Afghan news and political programs, original reality TV shows, Bollywood movies and American programs like "24", ARIA TV
ARIA TV is an Afghan television channel for children and teenagers. It was launched on 4 April 2011 as "an exclusive and dedicated channel for children and teenagers"...

 is the first exclusive channel for children and teenagers, Tolo TV
Tolo TV
Tolo TV , is a television station, being one of the first commercial ones to operate in Afghanistan. Launched in October 2004 by MOBY Group, it laid the foundations for an accessible media outlet offering a big library of shows...

 is Afghanistan's most watched station. Saad Mohseni
Saad Mohseni
Saad Mohseni is an Afghan Media tycoon and entrepreneur in the show business. He is the chairman of MOBY Group, which is one of Afghanistan's largest media companies that owns Tolo TV, Tolo News, and Arman Radio...

, chairman of Tolo's parent company, Moby Media Group, said Moby's revenues are in the $20 million range and the media company operates at a profit. State-owned Afghanistan National Television
Afghanistan National Television
Afghanistan National Television was a television channel, broadcasting in Afghanistan, and was launched in 1974, closed in 1996, re-launched in 2002, and then closed again in 2010.-History:...

 relaunched in 2002 after being shut down in 1996 by the Taliban. Four cable stations appeared after the overthrow of the Taliban, carrying India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n and U.S. programs, though cable was banned in 2003 by the Afghan Supreme Court
Afghan Supreme Court
Stera Mahkama or the Afghan Supreme Court is the court of last resort in Afghanistan. It was created by the Constitution of Afghanistan, which was approved on January 4, 2004...

 on moral grounds. In 2006, at least 7 television stations were operating in the country, of which 1 was government run in addition to six regional stations. Radio Television Afghanistan
Radio Television Afghanistan
Radio Television Afghanistan is an Afghan broadcasting organization. This governmental organ has a national TV station, RTA...

 was the most powerful broadcast outlet. Satellite and cable television ownership is growing however; Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

 widely seen as a leading source of uncensored information.

The Afghan government had planned to make the Bakhtar news agency and Radio Afghanistan independent of government control in 2004 before elections.

Many global news channels have local bureau's in Kabul, including: CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

BBC News
BBC News is the department of the British Broadcasting Corporation responsible for the gathering and broadcasting of news and current affairs. The department is the world's largest broadcast news organisation and generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online...

, Sky News
Sky News
Sky News is a 24-hour British and international satellite television news broadcaster with an emphasis on UK and international news stories.The service places emphasis on rolling news, including the latest breaking news. Sky News also hosts localised versions of the channel in Australia and in New...

 and Aljazeera.


As in many other places, digital media
Digital media
Digital media is a form of electronic media where data is stored in digital form. It can refer to the technical aspect of storage and transmission Digital media is a form of electronic media where data is stored in digital (as opposed to analog) form. It can refer to the technical aspect of...

 is growing in Afghanistan. About 1 million online users were reported in 2009. Internet access is growing through internet cafe
Internet cafe
An Internet café or cybercafé is a place which provides internet access to the public, usually for a fee. These businesses usually provide snacks and drinks, hence the café in the name...

s as well as public "telekiosks" in Kabul. A number of online newspapers are available, such as Pajhwok Afghan News
Pajhwok Afghan News
Pajhwok Afghan News is a news agency established in March 2004 in Kabul, Afghanistan by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. It is Afghanistan's largest independent news service, providing broad-based coverage of news in English, Pashto and Dari...

, Khaama Press
Khaama Press
Khaama Press, Afghan Online News Portal is one of the largest news portals established in October 2010 in Kabul, Afghanistan....

and others.