RFE/RL President Jamie Fly (file photo)
RFE/RL President Jamie Fly has said that Radio Azadi has come back “stronger than ever” with expanded programming despite the Taliban’s efforts to ban the company’s Afghan news service from the airwaves and the Internet.
“When the Taliban took Azadi off its airwaves, Azadi came back stronger than ever, doubling its daily time on air to become a 24/7 service,” RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly said in a February 8 statement . “For two decades, Afghans have turned to Azadi for hope, and we will continue to find ways to reach them."
The statement came after Radio Azadi’s Dari and Pashto websites were blocked in Afghanistan this week, and after the Taliban removed Azadi broadcasts from AM and FM airwaves on December 1. Azadi remained accessible to listeners in Afghanistan on medium-wave and shortwave frequencies.
In response to the ban, RFE/RL on January 30 announced that it was doubling the length of its radio broadcasts to provide 24/7 coverage. Twelve hours of broadcasts are now transmitted on medium wave, followed by 12 hours on shortwave every day.
The expanded coverage was announced on Azadi’s 21st anniversary serving as a public broadcaster in Afghanistan.
After the Taliban implemented the airwaves ban on December 1, Fly described the decision as “tragic” and said that banning Azadi broadcasts would cut off a “lifeline for tens of millions of Afghans.”
“RFE/RL will not change our editorial line to accommodate Taliban demands in order to stay on the air,” Fly said at the time . “We know from experience that our audiences make great efforts to find us. The truth cannot be completely suppressed.”
In a recent survey commissioned by the U.S. Agency for Global Media, half of Afghan adults surveyed use Azadi content weekly.
The Taliban has consistently pressured Azadi since the hard-line Islamist group seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021.
Following the Taliban takeover, RFE/RL closed its Kabul bureau, but continues to cover news ignored by state media and at odds with the Taliban’s hardline views, including on women’s issues, freedom of the press, and human rights.