Memorandum submitted by the BBC World
THE ROLE OF MEDIA IN THE TRANSITION FROM
HUMANITARIAN RELIEF TO RECONSTRUCTION
In many of the World's poorest communities,
radio is the main source of news and information. The BBC World
Service Trust (www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/trust) is an independent
charity set up in 1999 to reduce poverty in developing countries,
through the innovative use and reach of the media. The Trust's
development work takes place in 23 countries worldwide providing
these communities with vital information in local languages, tackling
issues of health, literacy and learning, and helping rebuild societies
and media infrastructure in countries emerging from conflict.
The Trust works in partnership with local and
international charities and governments. All its projects are
cost-effective, measurable and self sustaining.
In February 2002 the BBC World Service Trust
received a grant of £1 million (US$1.45 million) from the
UK's Department for International Development (DFID) to help rebuild
the media in Afghanistan. The Trust's immediate actions focused
on five areas:
Providing equipment to Radio/TV Afghanistan
to equip two radio studios and to stabilise radio production.
Training more than 350 journalists
and technical staff in Kabul and the regions.
Working in partnership with the Afghan
Interim Authority (AIA) to assess future needs and the foundations
for a regulatory framework for the media and defining future strategic
Production of radio programmes on
the BBC World Service in Pashto and Persian on the traditional
council, the "Loya Jirga".
Providing resources for the co-ordination
of media projects
With the experience of implementing and managing
these development projects and using the BBC's Persian and Pashto
service meant that the Trust has developed a series of proposals
for a more extensive project addressing technical rehabilitation,
regulatory frameworks, training of journalists and educational
and other programming in Afghanistan which will provide long term
humanitarian relief, development and reconstruction.
The BBC World Service has broadcast in Persian
(Dari) since 1940 and in Pashto for more than 20 years. Before
and during the crisis in Afghanistan the Service has had huge
audiences throughout the country and maintained a profile as an
accurate and independent broadcaster. In addition, the BBC has
enhanced its traditional broadcasting role through the establishment
of the Afghan Education Projects in 1993 and the launch of Afghanistan's
first soap opera, "New Home, New Life" modelled
on the British radio soap, The Archers. Radio became the
only media outlet which combined entertainment, education and
information, and Afghans became dependent on information for their
daily survival. They needed to know what was happening in their
neighbourhood and in their country.
In October 2001, DFID supported the production
of the daily lifeline programmes building on the Trust's previous
work in the region. The Trust and the BBC's Afghan Education Projects
broadcasting from Peshawar, Pakistan, commenced a series of 15
minute lifeline programmes in November 2001, targeting refugees
and internally displaced persons in Afghanistan. These programmes
are currently broadcast twice daily on the BBC's Pashto and Persian
There can be little doubt that radio programmes
like the BBC's radio soap opera in "New Home, New Life",
brought much to the people of Afghanistan during war and conflict.
The radio soap offered life-saving information, hope and entertainment,
and helped to unite Afghans across the region.
But two decades of war have caused endless destruction
in Afghanistan, including damage to self-esteem and self-reliance
of its people. The provision of humanitarian relief to Afghans
inside the country and to Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries,
especially in Pakistan, has, on the one hand, helped to save lives,
but on the other, eroded people's self confidence. Recently, the
Trust's Afghan staff visited a refugee camp with the team of writers
of "New Home, New Life" and talked to a group
of returning refugees about their hopes and fears. It was clear
that some of these refugees were going back home with new skills,
some of which are probably easily marketable but others less so.
Particularly striking was the culture of dependency in the form
of expectation from aid agencies and non-government organisations.
One of the refugees' biggest fears was "what if we go
back and the aid agencies stop supporting us".
However, despite all her losses Afghanistan
has learned new lessons, and has tried and experimented with new
approaches and new channels, especially in the areas of education
and media. Many positive, community-based, educational initiatives
emerged in response to the Taliban's restrictions on girls' education
and women's employment. Similar experience was gained in the field
of media. But amongst all radio had a unique role.
Radio was the only medium through which relatively
impartial information was available in local languages. Radio
was also cheaper than other medium and culturally acceptable to
people. The only difficulty was finding a language that was understood
by intellectuals as well as tribesmen, and this was overcome with
the launch of "New Home, New Life", which chose
to use the spoken language that is common in the countryside.
The use of an accessible language combined with the use of direct
input from listeners turned the show into lifeline and provided
something that all Afghans would share. The most recent evidence
of this was when the UN Special Envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, appeared
in an episode of "New Home, New Life" shortly
before the "Loya Jirga" took place early this year.
Despite a lot of pressure from warlords, the involvement of the
ordinary people of Afghanistan in the election process of the
"Loya Jirga" was unexpected and unprecedented. Some
Afghans were prepared to make huge sacrifices in order to have
representation. This illustrates that, provided appropriate long-term
investment is made, radio can continue to play a very significant
role in building democracy in the country.
BBC WORLD SERVICE
The following activities have been carried in
Afghanistan so far with the support of the DFID and other agencies:
1. Needs assessment
After the Interim Administration took charge
in December 2001 in Kabul, a BBC team took part in a needs assessment
mission in Afghanistan under the auspices of the UN's Department
of Public Information. The Trust's team included a range of experts
from BBC Technology, BBC Public Policy (for regulatory frameworks),
the World Service Pashto and Persian services and Afghan Education
The needs assessment mission met with Hamid
Karzai and leading Ministers in the Interim Government, Afghan
broadcasters, journalists and UN agencies. The mission's findings
were incorporated into the "Preliminary Needs Assessment
for Recovery and Reconstruction in Afghanistan" which was
presented by the World Bank, UNDP and the Asian Development Bank
at the donor's conference in Tokyo earlier this year.
The areas identified as a result of the needs
assessment where input, expertise and assistance were required
included a legal framework for media in Afghanistan, capacity
building and training across the Afghan media (including broadcasting
and print), and equipment and infrastructure.
2. Legal framework and strategy development
The needs assessment team recognised that there
was a very low level of understanding of the regulatory frameworks
required to govern the media sector. It recommended that early
attention was paid to increase understanding amongst broadcasters
and government officials. The Minister of Information and Culture
then requested a strategic advisor from the BBC to assist in drawing
up a comprehensive plan for the media. The BBC provided a senior
BBC Manager as a consultant who is Persian speaking and who has
been based in Kabul since February 2002, to help develop a forward
plan. As a result the AIA issued a Policy Declaration in June
2002 and in September held an International Media Seminar in Kabul.
In addition, a number of experts from the BBC
and other organisations including the University of Adelaide,
School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London)
and Article 19 worked closely with the AIA and others to identify
priorities and tackle foreseeable problems for the reconstruction
of the media. They addressed topics such as the ability of the
media to reach the poorest in Afghanistan, regulatory issues and
freedom of speech, broadcast policy, gender and educational needs.
A full report (attachment 1) with recommendations for future action
has been produced and is available from the World Service Trust,
from Nusrat Ul-Ghani on 0207 557 2492/[email protected]
A five person training team, led by William
Reeve (previously a BBC Correspondent in Kabul), started work
in Afghanistan on 2 February 2002. To date the Trust has provided
training to more than 350 Afghan journalists, of whom a third
The team included senior producers and trainers
from the Persian and Pashto Services, a former BBC News editor
and a senior trainer. Afghan journalists came from Kabul and other
towns and cities, from Radio/TV Afghanistan, from the state news
agency, Bakhtar, and from government and independent press.
Sessions included ethics, accuracy, research, media law, interviewing
skills and conflict reporting. Further courses and seminars were
provided to editors at Radio/TV Afghanistan and the Bakhtar
News Agency, and the training continued through the summer
with further courses in Mazar-e-Sharif.
The latest training activities in Afghanistan
included both technical and journalism training. The main emphasis
of the programme was a series of three one-week workshops to establish
a foundation in the ethics and principles of professional journalism
and to strengthen editorial judgement. The journalists participating
in the training programme were working journalists and came from
all sectors of the media: television, radio and newspapers as
well as from the national news agency. Of the 96 participants,
56 were from the provinces, 22 were women journalists. The women
journalists on the courses had not been able to work at all for
the six years of Taleban rule.
4. Studio/recording equipment
Equipment which includes two fully equipped,
self-operating studios, digital editing equipment, computers and
mini discs were supplied and installed at Radio Afghanistan
in Kabul by a technical team from BBC Technology in March 2002.
Technical training for studio managers and producers has been
provided by BBC trainers.
A fully equipped Media Resource Centre was opened
in early April 2002 in Kabul, and is currently managed by the
BBC. It includes training facilities, a projection and meeting
space, and computers and audio-visual equipment. The centre is
currently providing basic computer and digital recording training
to nearly 300 members, most of them journalists. It is also being
used by other organisations for training workshops.
A series of feature programmes have been broadcast
on aspects of the "Loya Jirga" on the BBC World Service
in Pashto, Persian and Uzbek. These features, discussions and
debates seek to provide information about the forthcoming democratic
process in an easily accessible form on a nationwide scale. It
is hoped that future support can be provided so that Radio
Afghanistan can produce its own programmes tackling processes,
farming, teacher training and distance learning.
As mentioned above, with the help of a BBC consultant
via the Trust, the Afghan Interim Authority issued a Policy Declaration
in June 2002 and the Transitional Authority held an International
Seminar on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media in Afghanistan
in September 2002 (attachment 2). The government has promised
to turn the radio, television, and the Bakhtar news agency into
public service entities. It has also pledged to remove the licensing
provision for print media. Both of these are important steps for
a free media.
The seminar, held in Kabul in early September,
included, in addition to international experts, print journalists
and broadcasters, not only from the capital, but also from key
provinces like Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Paktia and Jalalabad. Many
of the Afghan delegates called for a comprehensive approach which
included the provinces. They too wanted to be part of what happens
in Kabul, which will be key to the restoration of unity, to the
restoration of trust and credibility in the media, to the democratisation
of the system, and consequently to raising nation-wide debates
on issues of national concern.
These are indeed very welcome developments but
remain subject to pressure from conservative elements in the central
government and from warlords and provincial commanders unless
proper protection and safeguards are provided through the international
community. The government's pledge and the determination of the
country's journalists must be supported by consistent investment,
input and commitment. There needs to be a coherent plan in which
all elements go hand in hand. The construction of infrastructure
is dependent upon the creation of a desirable legal environment
and adequate capacity building to ensure an effective legal framework
is developed and put in place. Consistent training and capacity
building at all levels across all media sectors will sure that
freedom of speech and independent media is properly understood
and put in practice by media professionals. This is only possible
with long term commitment from donors.
The Afghan government pledged to turn the media
into "an essential instrument in making the government transparent
and accountable, and in generating national debate on the crucial
decisions", which the government "will have to make
in the rebuilding" of the country in the years ahead. Afghanistan's
government has also recognised that there is a need for a "comprehensive
programme of training throughout all levels and functions in all
media sectors, in strategic planning, management, financial, editorial,
technical, and production skills" (1).
The existing momentum for the reconstruction
of free and independent media must be seized and supported by
the international community during this early period. The expertise
and professional know-how available from media organisations currently
active in Afghanistan should be harnessed in partnership with
Afghans, if we wish to see a real and sustainable change. The
Trust has no further funding to continue with its recommended
projects to ensure that a free and independent media is established
in Afghanistan, and ensuring that all of its projects are sustainable.
This is a point donors need to be aware of long-term, sustainable
Now that the "Loya Jirga" has taken
place and Afghanistan has hopefully set out on a new path, both
the international community and Afghans themselves should capitalise
on these lessons and experience. We should continue to use radio
to build confidence, share experiences, develop skills, strengthen
civil society, restore a sense of unity and to complement mainstream
reconstruction and development programmes in the country.
1. Reconstruction and Development of Media
in Afghanistan reportThe Ministry of Information and Culture
Policy Directions, Government of Afghanistan, June 2002. Also
The BBC World Service Trust