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VOA Forced to Refocus After Cold War - 2002-03-13

A VOA Snapshot - Part of VOA's 60th Anniversary Year Coverage

On November 9, 1989, East Germany opened the Brandenburg Gate. Soon after, the Berlin Wall falls. Two years later, the Soviet Union collapsed. Suddenly, after nearly 50 years of VOA broadcasting, "There were those who said, 'Why is there a need for the Voice of America? The Cold War was over,'" recalled Geoffery Cowan, VOA director in the mid-1990s.

"I had believed, and still believe, that it's something that will always be needed for the United States, as long as we're a great nation," said Mr. Cowan.

But how to convince the Congress? Mr. Cowan and others found plenty of reasons to continue VOA broadcasts: more than a billion people still under communism in Asia, and continuing instability in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa.

VOA's African services include Hausa broadcasts to Nigeria, whose programs reach an influential audience. "As the vice president of the Nigerian Senate, Ibihim Mantu, said, 'During those many years of dictatorial military rule, you for us were the voice of hope,'" said VOA Director Robert Reilly.

Then, last September 11, a whole different set of reasons to continue VOA broadcasts became painfully clear. "It's needed because of the necessity of getting information to the Islamic world," said former VOA deputy director Alan Heil.

He also cites VOA humanitarian programs, including a series of public service announcements in Hindi that helped get 120 million children inoculated against polio in a single day in 1998.

Snapshots will contine throughout our 60th anniversary year, here at

To write to us about our anniversary, send an email to Or, send regular mail to Anniversary, VOA News Now, Washington, D.C. 20237, USA.