Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Saying that “freedom of information is essential to stabilizing and rebuilding Afghanistan,” the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has decided to expand its media activities in that country.
Since 2002, USAID has funded a network of 43 FM radio stations in Afghanistan, trained Afghan journalists and established a content and distribution service for news and radio programming that reaches 80 radio stations.
This new ambitious effort, tagged the Afghanistan Media Development and Empowerment Project (AMDEP), is described as “essential” to expand “the availability of reliable information that allows Afghans to make informed choices about goods, services, their government and the future of Afghanistan,” according to a pre-solicitation notice posted last week. Of course, USAID is hardly the only U.S. government agency that has become active in the Afghan media arena. Agency overlap exists — albeit on a smaller scale — such as the overlap within the intelligence community, as The Washington Post reported last month.
In May, for example, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul announced it was open to applications from “local representatives of civil society, including non-governmental organizations and universities,” for grants from the State Department’s public diplomacy funds. Grants would range from $500 to $10 million, the notice stated, and could pay for projects that “expand media engagement . . . build communication capacity of the Afghan people and government . . . [or] counter extremist voices that recruit, mislead, and exploit.”
The U.S. military and coalition partners also sponsor various media activities in Afghanistan. A Pentagon official recently provided an example related to the Defense Department budget next year. It calls for spending $180 million on “psychological operations” in Afghanistan and Iraq, a category once known as strategic communications. The Pentagon defines such activities as those that “induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to the originator’s objectives.” In Afghanistan, they are almost all run by civilian contractors.
Meanwhile, USAID will seek its own contractors to run AMDEP projects, but they should be nongovernmental organizations or firms willing to give up profits, according to the solicitation notice. The new efforts will include creating regional Afghan media training and production centers; consolidating existing Afghan professional media associations, thereby building “a network capable of advocacy and self-regulation to high journalistic standards”; and providing technical assistance to Afghan ministries in the media sector to help with “business-friendly government regulation of the airwaves and licensing. Please read the entire story here