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'Voice of Peace': Small Afghan Radio With Big Message - 2002-03-04


During the years of Taleban rule in Afghanistan, many Afghans turned to foreign radio stations for news and information. But another, much smaller station has been on the air in Afghanistan since last year.

The Voice of Peace is a little station with a big message. Broadcasting a mix of news, culture, and a dose of the wisdom of fallen folk hero Ahmed Shah Masood, the station is dedicated to freedom of expression.

The Voice of Peace began last year as he brainchild of Mr. Masood, the military leader of the fight against the Taleban. He obtained funding from the European Union for the project only days before his assassination on September 9. Producer Haji Sultan Bagramwal says the Voice of Peace is also the voice of Masood.

"Yes, Mr. Masood helped in establishing this radio, and also it was the people who wanted to have a radio," he said. "At a time when people were fighting against the Taleban, many things were happening here, and people had the need to know what was going on in the world and also they wanted to have a source in which they could reflect their views."

The tiny station is nestled in a village at the mouth of the Panshir Valley, Mr. Masood's home ground, after the paved road ends and a bone-jarring journey over crater-pocked, rock-strewn dirt tracks begins. The reach of the station is small; its signal can perhaps be heard 50 kilometers away, and only in higher locations in Kabul to the south.

News is obtained from a variety of sources, both foreign and domestic, says Mr. Bagramwal. "We are using our reporters," he said. "We have a reporter in Kabul. And also the source of our news is the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and also the BBC. And also in this area itself we have a reporter who goes around and collects information and makes stories."

Reporter Abdul Aleem Saqeeb says they are watching political developments closely He says there is intense interest about the work of Hamid Karzai's interim administration and about the groundwork for the Loya Jirga, the grand council in June that will choose Afghanistan's form of government.

"As journalists, and as free journalists, we are trying to prepare people for Loya Jirga and raise their awareness about the Loya Jirga, to tell them what it is and how it will be working," he said.

The Voice of Peace may be small and its signal limited, but its message comes through loud and clear.