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RFE/RL Beams Its Way Back into Afghanistan

Shortwave, medium-wave broadcasts help Azadi return after loss of retransmission partners

A Radio Azadi graphic highlighting its new transmissions on medium- and shortwave. (Via Twitter)

Radio Azadi, the Dari- and Pashto-language service, of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty can once again be heard in Afghanistan. On Dec. 1, 2022, the Taliban-led government of Afghanistan removed Azadi programming from retransmission networks in the country.

As of Jan. 18, 2023, the station is now using medium-wave channel 1296 kHz to reach listeners from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time. The remainder of the day, Azadi, which is also known as Radio Free Afghanistan, is broadcasting to Afghanistan via shortwave on the 19, 21 and 25 meter bands. The combined medium- and shortwave broadcasts double the amount of Dari- and Pashto-language programming delivered by REF/RL to the country.

The new broadcasts are launching on the 21st anniversary of Azadi’s initial broadcasts. In 2002, the U.S. and the prior government of Afghanistan reached an agreement allowing the U.S. to establish and operate the station on 1296 kHz from Pul-e-Charkhi, near Kabul.

[Related: “RFE/RL Marks Radio Azadi Anniversary”]

“Our expanded programming for Afghan audiences is indicative of the resilience and creativity of our team and their dedication to continue to reach our audiences in Afghanistan in the face of extreme Taliban pressure,” stated RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly. “Azadi will now be available for Afghans day and night to give them hope for a better future.”

Following the Taliban takeover in August 2021, RFE/RL closed its Kabul bureau, yet continued to provide independent news and educational programming via its FM retransmission partners. According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Agency for Global Media, about half of Afghan adults surveyed tuned to Azadi at least weekly. USAGM provides grant funding to RFE/RL. A 2020 academic survey of news radio in Afghanistan found that Azadi presents news stories in a simple way that listeners find easy to grasp.

The December move removed Azadi programming from U.S.-funded media outlets in 13 cities across the country. The Voice of America also had its retransmissions cut, according to RFE/RL.

Via Twitter, Afghan Information Ministry official Abdul Haq Hammad said the decision to remove Azadi from its FM partners followed complaints about the broadcasts; however, no details were provided, according to RFE/RL.