[Reader-list] internet radio project in afghanistan (a proposal)

Jeebesh Bagchi jeebesh at sarai.net
Tue Dec 11 12:46:21 IST 2001

via: jo at xs4al.nl (please forward to those who could be interested)

Internet and Radio
for the people of Agh at nistan.
a radically democratic communication initiative
also known as Radio Reed Flute

"Broken glass becomes stronger" (Hazara saying)

We propose to use internet and radio to enable Afghans in Afganistan and in
diaspora to communicate and create a civil society network aimed at
rehabilitating and reconstructing Afghanistan. Joining a variety of forces
and skills it can be realized step-by-step in different places according to
partners and local situations. You may want to join this initiative by
contributing contacts, advice, money, content, ideas or written support.
Our ideal is to move beyond aid and advocacy and stimulate the use of
information technology in a do-it-yourself approach.

After the military, the politicians and the diplomats the time is now for
the people of Afghanistan to get a chance to express their needs and
opinions. Afghans in exile, the diaspora, have found their ways to the
media or created their own infrastructures which enables them to speak. But
for who? Who do they represent? And to whom are they actually speaking?
Intellectuals who left their country 20 or 30 years ago, and even the
younger generation that escaped the Mujahideen and the Taliban in the last
ten years have to admit that they have grown distant from the reality of
local Afghans  in many ways. And this is often a personal tragedy in

Meanwhile the international community is pondering ways to bring relief, to
rehabilitate and to reconstruct the country and the society. Over the last
months practically all ex-pats left Afghanistan leaving local staff and
local NGO's to save whatever could be saved. We believe that reinforcing
these nuclei of civil society and (re)connecting them with the outside
world is vital for a number of practical and principal reasons.
At the same time, the Afghan diaspora, is challenged to engage itself in
positive moves to act for their homeland. This communication initiative is
also meant to support them. The ultimate goal is of course, to reconstruct,
and possibly re-invent Afghanistan as a nation, a home fit for human

We all know that the internet is an essential tool for communication by
literate people, including Afghans around the world, NGO's, Aid-workers,
human rights activists, grass roots community developers, (media) activists
and roaming kite-flyers and other poets.

We also know that many people in Afghanistan are uprooted and dependent on
aid for their survival and for the rehabilitation of their environment.
With the exception of some priviliged urbans they never did have access to
the internet. In fact a huge majority of perhaps 80% is illiterate.
Therefore a combination of internet facilities and independant community
radio run and owned by Afghans seems to be an appropiate option to provide
some  necessary communication facilities. "Necessary"  if the intention is
to enable Afghans to fully participate in the process of rehabilitation and
reconstruction of their lives and regions.

What we propose is a communication platform that is independent and at the
service of Afghan civil society and its supporters.

The media situation is as fluid as the policitical situation. The Northern
Alliance forces took over Radio Sharia'a and still control Radio
Aghanistan. Commando Solo is still broadcasting from his airplanes. The BBC
and Voice of America are doing their job. Especially the BBC Pashto and
Dari programs are broadly considered a reliable source of information. In
Herat the first internet cafe is open again, it seems. Hopefully Kabul will
follow soon...

However, these media are not enough, to serve as a communicator for civil
society and the people in general, who have a whole range of needs: ranging
from logistics to education and channels for independent expression.

The internet could, in combination with radio -- and other traditional
media -- be of vital importance to link people around the globe on various
issues. It will help to get as many people as possible involved in the
reconstruction of Afghanistan. It can be a vehicle for contact, exchange,
education, debate and democracy

Jo van der Spek and Chris Swart have been working on various related
projects in Amsterdam, Hungary, Kosovo, Lesotho, South-Africa and


first nodes in Peshawar
the right to communicate

A node is a place that offers internet access and tools for radio

Zubair Faisal Abbasi, development consultant and journalist based in
Islamabad, is doing a fact finding and liaisoning study in Peshawar. A
presentation of the concept to representatives of the Afghan Women Council,
the University of Peshawar and Radio Pakistan received serious interest
from the AWC and a willingness to share technical facilities of Radio
Pakistan and the  University with radio reed Flute. They are establishing a
community radio station that would cover the area around Peshawar up to
Jalalabad and Kabul in Afghanistan. This project is supported by German
donor FeST.

Another option is an internet and radio facility in ARIC, Peshawar. From
their home page http.www.geocities.com/mstanikzai/mainfile/Intotoa.htm
we quote:


ARIC aims to collect documents generated by all members of the NGO community
and from the UN system working for Afghanistan. It then disseminates
information about these materials throughout the aid community and to
interested parties in Pakistan and abroad, including donors and academic


The ARIC Collection contains books, reports, maps, newspapers, journals,
periodicals, posters, pamphlets, and a rare collection of the Mujahideen
press, bibliographies, videos and audiocassettes. Many documents relate to
NGO and UN agency reports and surveys.

Specific subjects include analytical and descriptive writings on health,
education, agriculture, veterinary sciences and animal husbandry, women,
children, law, music, folklore and archaeology, history, political science,
monuments, literature, language and other aspects of cultural heritage.

ARIC is also the depository for the minutes of ACBAR sectoral and regional
meetings. (ACBAR is the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, website


ARIC extended its services inside Afghanistan in 1996. By 1999 there were 31
mobile libraries operating in 22 out of 32 provinces, with a total of some
10,000 books. Other agencies following the ABLE model have also placed
libraries in villages, district centers and provincial capitals. The number
grows steadily and there are now some 400 libraries spread throughout

The subjects range from technical works on health, including mother-child
care, to agriculture and animal welfare; Islam; history, poetry and
literature toy making and a variety of vocational subjects such as carpentry
and masonry. The aim is not only to provide instructional materials but also
to spread the word that reading is entertaining.

Jurjen van der Tas, program officer Central-Asia of NOVIB is investigating
if ARIC is willing and able to host a node of Radio Readflute.


to these facilities and services would be open to:

- the staff of involved partners
- civil society groups in Peshawar, NGO's and community organisations
- the public: ordinary people who wish to use communication facilities
(email, fax, web surfing). E.g. people who wish  to contact family members
abroad, students, artists, (re-)emerging entrepreneurs, etc.
- ex-pats, foreign aid workers, journalists, researchers
- special hours of free internet access and training for specific groups
(recovering mine victims, children, groups nominated by local


The purpose of Radio Reedflute and of the various nodes is to produce and
distribute  radio programming.  Internet makes it possible to collect
input without borders in a cheap way.

The content would be produced by a local editorial team, to be recruited by
the local partners. each node will have its own characteristics according
to location and partners in their situation.

Radio production aimed at literate and illitarate audiences in and from
Afghanistan is a basic aim of radio reed Flute. But with the same technical
facilities other products can be developed:  web sites, mailing-lists,
Audio CD production, publishing,  etc.

a prototype in The Netherlands
a challenge for diaspora

Again, a node, in our conceptis a place that offers internet access and
tools for radio production. Some four or five prototype nodes are now being
developed in several places in the Netherlands. Each node has internet
connectivity, (some broadband), CD writer (for Audio CD's and CD-roms), a
printer, a telephone connection. The internet connection supports streams
(dynamic audio signals broadcast via the internet) allowing Reed Fluters to
send and receive  audio/radio peer to peer and also broadcast to up to 900
listeners on-line. Thus each node is a production place and virtual radio
station for radio journalists.
Audiofiles or live streams can be picked up from the web site and relayed
on various ether frequencies around the globe (short wave, community radio,
"official" radio). On-line listeners need a computer with sound card and
internet access.

The working title of this radiostation on internet is Radio Reed Flute. It
is a musical instrument, a brilliant poem by Molana Djalal eddine Roemi
written in the 13th centry and it is a song that was played every morning
on the radio in Aghanistan. It's a song known to every Afghan, because
that's what you woke up with or played as a sheppard.
Qader Shafiq, community worker and writer from Kabul and living in Nijmegen
plays a key role in defining this a project as culturally open and
emancipatory, inclusive and respectful. He is collecting contributors in
the Netherlands and Germany for a variety of columns, informations, music,
poetry and stories. Nasir Rahim, also from Kabul, is a producer of a local
radio and TV programs for Afghans (RTV Asmai). The editors and contributors
are mostly Afghans who live and work in the Netherlands and share an urge
to do something for their country and people. They are already producing
content relevant to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

We have contacted interested persons in New York and California ond offered
them to link with this networking concept.

Radio Reed Flute is to be an environment for people to meet eachother, to
reach out and to relieve the Afghans and all those that share a compassion
for their plight.


planning and time line

december 2001- january 2002
identifying partners
defining project details
10 day visit to Pkistan and possibly Afghanistan to meet with partners
draft a definite plan, organizational framework and budget proposal
testing technical infrastructure
web site construction

february - may 2002
implementation of first 3 nodes in Peshawar, the Netherlands
training and workshops with local editors, journalists nd technicians

project developers
Zubair Faisal Abbasi, journalist and development consultant in Islamabad
Nasir Rahim, student and radimaker with local Radio Asmai in Amsterdam
Qader Shafiq q.shafiq at planet.nl, writer and community worker in Nijmegen
Jo van der Spek jo at xs4all.nl, radio journalist and tactical media
consultant in Amsterdam
Chris Swart gris at saloon.dhs.org, programmer and tools developer in Budapest
and Amsterdam

interested partners in Pakistan
Afghan Women Council,  (AWC) was formed in mid-1993. Composed solely of
Afghan women, including doctors, teachers and university lecturers, the AWC
is headed by Fatana Gilani. Its aim is to provide educational and health
facilities to Afghan children and women in the refugee areas, and to train
Afghan women in the area of women's rights within the framework of
Afghanistan's religious and cultural traditions. It maintains a
well-organized school and a mother-and-child health clinic in Peshawar,
Pakistan, as well as a hospital and a clinic in Kabul.
contacts: Zia Habibi , Dr. Afifa (AWC- health), Ms. Nadia
SDNP, Sustainable Development Networking Programme
University of Peshawar, department of journalism
Radio Pakistan

interested partners in the Netherlands
Global Ministries of the Uniting Churches in the Netherlands (Kerken in
Actie), Evert van Bodegom
NOVIB, Jurjen van der Tas
SFO-CAF, Communication Assistance Foundation

"A world without walls needs windows nor gates" (anonymous Linux developer)

Amsterdam  December 2001



Among the Afghan diaspora and the serious observers there is a well based
trust towards new transitional government, because of the bad records of
many of its constituants, the socalled broad government is based on
military logic, not on democratic or humanitarian logic. In this situation
the civil soiety can be expected to be critical if not opposed to the

If it is true that civil society in Afghanistan can not rely on authorities
to respect their independance and may therefore be hampered in some of its
operations, then they may seek (more) support and protection from external
agents. However  we feel that a complete dependance on external support and
aid might  lead on the long run to another form of "clientelism".

That is why we hope to create a structure in which a board or team of
content managers/editors consisting of a majority of Afghans that will
decide the agenda, editorial policy and development of related projects and
collaborations of this project. A process of networking, consultations and
workshops should build the capacity for a smooth and quick hand over to
this board.

This process is already under way in the Netherlands.

The content is to be culturally open-minded and emancipatory. The attitude
is to be inclusive and respectful, looking for means to connect, finding
common ground, confronting tradition with compassion, presenting modernity
with humility, emanating curiosity, more personal than political, eagerness
to learn, create, change

The principal purpose is bridging the distance between diaspora,
generations and between urban and country side. Education (distribution of
educational material and software), cultural expression (poetry, music,
story telling) and direct secure communication between distant relatives
are the main targets at this stage.

Another matter for consideration is whether Radio Reedflute, through its
various channels, will be able to provide accurate and non-partisan news
and information. This would require the involvement of journalists, and
possibly seeking collaboration and linkage with other souces (e.g. BBC
Worldservice, Pashto and Dari department, but also a selection of afghan
websites, links to relevant sites on Human Rights, Health Matters, gender
issues, legal matters, etc.

This will probably require a program of training and exchange to attain
certain professional and ethical standards.

Jo van der Spek,
radio journalist, program maker & tactical media consultant
H. Seghersstraat 46
1072 LZ Amsterdam, the Netherlands
tel. +31.20.6718027
mob. +31.6.51069318
jo at xs4all.nl

better a complex identity than an identity complex


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