Afghanistan and Bullshit – Prof. Vladimir Golstein

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By Prof. Vladmir Golstein

Here is a curious document. 2009 Testimony of the Heads of Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe (RFE) to the SUBCOMMITTEE ON EUROPE OF THE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.The guys brag about their fight for the hearts and minds of Afghanis. In reality, of course, they just beg for more money from Congress.

“In 2009, many Americans take media freedom more or less for granted. RFE/RL provides a voice, as well as an outlet, to millions of people that would otherwise not have one. … VOA and RFE/RL fill this void by bringing timely, factual information to populations that otherwise would be kept in the dark.

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When I recently visited RFE/RL headquarters in Prague, I was greatly impressed that its broadcasts have an overwhelming share of the radio market in Afghanistan. Meeting with RFE’s Afghan service, I learned more about RFE’s direct interaction with its audience, including letters by the bag full, phone calls, e-mails, cell phone text messages, and even scrolls that were meticulously crafted and delivered to RFE/RL from Afghanistan.

As both Mr. Austin and Dr. Gedmin know, international broadcasting is not without risk. It often involves broadcasting in conflict zones like Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, where journalists are too often threatened, attacked and killed. Additionally, VOA and RFE/RL must address the concerted, round-the-clock effort by some governments to block the delivery of programming, regardless of the medium or technology.

Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, should be commended for promoting freedom of the press and democracy in an increasingly difficult and dynamic global information environment. I applaud both of you gentleman for your efforts and leadership and look forward to hearing your assessments on whether VOA and RFE/RL are successfully fulfilling your mission to “promote freedom and democracy and to enhance understanding through multimedia communication of accurate, objective, balanced news, information, and other programming about America and the world to audiences overseas…..

They say to control information is to control the battlefield. In Afghanistan, that is going to be increasingly true because of the amount of influence that the Gulf states are putting in terms of resources into the hands of radical Islam in that area.

Fortunately, 70 percent of the Afghans now listen to Radio Free Afghanistan, but all through that region, people are listening to Sharia radio still. It is a war of ideas, and you gentlemen are going to have to be part of the solution to this… Some of my Afghan colleagues will say, “Well, this country is not going to be in your sense, Jeff Gedmin, democratic any time soon, any period soon.” But they will adopt values, habits, and behaviors that support religious tolerance, that eradicates anti-Americanism, that don’t promote extremism. It flourishes in Afghanistan. It has a grand tradition in that country, actually. It is not us. We are not dictating or imposing. It comes from them. It is universal.

In all of these cases, we have tangible benefits. It is cost efficient, and it works. It has traction. There is a market for Radio Free Afghanistan, by the way. If there weren’t
a market, we wouldn’t be there. And Chairman Wexler referred to this. If they didn’t care, we wouldn’t get bags and bags and bags of letters every single week. Poetry, music, lifestyle, women’s rights, religious tolerance. There is a market for it.”

Well, I guess, now there will be even a greater market…