The Voice of America (VOA) debuted a 24/7 direct-to-home satellite-delivered television station for Afghanistan on Tuesday, only one day after the Taliban banned VOA broadcasts from terrestrial television.
The US State Department has encouraged Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership to allow journalists and human rights advocates to operate freely and without fear.
The VOA said that the new station will broadcast “uncensored news and information” in both the country’s Pashto and Dari languages.
The Taliban ordered VOA-affiliated Afghan television stations to stop airing VOA programs on March 27, as part of a broader prohibition on programming seen to be undermining Taliban policy, including barring women from hosting newscasts alongside males.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Deutsche Welle both stated that new Taliban directives had banned their local broadcasting partners from airing their content in Afghanistan.
The State Department issued a statement condemning the order, saying, “It is with shock and profound worry that we heard of the Taliban’s determination to impede the Afghan people’s access to independent, impartial, foreign media sources.”
The VOA’s new TV feed, dubbed “VOA Afghanistan,” is available on the Yahsat Y-1A satellite (52.2 degrees East), Transponder 12 (downlink frequency 11.938 GHz), Channel 469. The Yahsat satellite is Afghanistan’s most popular platform, guaranteeing that the Afghan population can watch VOA programs despite Taliban censorship.
“Afghanistan is becoming one of the world’s most oppressive media markets,” stated Yolanda López, Acting VOA Director. “Despite the Taliban’s efforts to curtail journalistic freedom, VOA News continues to provide genuine and authoritative news and information to its Afghan audience.”
The new VOA Afghanistan satellite stream features popular “TV Ashna” newscasts, the women’s show “Etesal,” audience call-in programs, and Azadi radio programming from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Additional programming is in the works, including entertainment events to fill a need in Afghanistan, where local networks are unable to broadcast music.
The VOA satellite channel has been in the works since August, before Afghanistan’s elected government fell. The channel is also available on YouTube, as well as on the Pashto and Dari language websites of VOA.
The State Department branded the Taliban media instructions as “restrictive and unpublished,” warning Kabul’s new authorities that Washington was still committed to defending the right to free expression across the world.
According to the department, the US was particularly concerned with ensuring that journalists and human rights advocates could “work freely without fear of violence against them.”
The State Department stated that the Taliban had continued to take Afghanistan in the wrong direction since taking Kabul, and that they had lately failed to keep promises they had made to enable women and girls to seek education. On March 23, the Taliban announced that girls would be barred from attending secondary school.
“Each of these actions is concerning in and of itself, but taken together, they demonstrate that the Taliban are failing to live up to the important obligations they made to the Afghan people and the international community,” the department stated.
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