The media's duty is to provide accurate, real and impartial information. Considering this, the Deutsche Welle (DW) Dari and Pashto programs have been broadcast since 1970, while respecting the deep cultural and political ties between the two countries – Afghanistan and Germany.
"I think it was 1978 or 1979 that I heard news through Deutsche Welle Radio that a number of Afghans protested in front of the German Embassy in Afghanistan. The embassy might have been damaged at that time," said Ashiqullah Yaqub.
Yaqub remembers the years that freedom of speech and media was banned in his country (Afghanistan). "The only information source was the state radio which never broadcast news like protests and so on."
Yaqub said that it was the first time he knew about a radio channel named Deutsche Welle Radio or Radio Sadai Alman (Germany Voice Radio). "I knew that the radio channel had programs in Dari and Pashto languages."
But the Deutsche Welle's Afghanistan branch (the Deutsche Welle Radio) started its activities ahead of political changes and the start of the 1973 and 1978 coups in Afghanistan.
Historical Background of Dari and Pashto Broadcasting
Hassan Abbas Pur, one of the first employees of Deutsche Welle Afghanistan branch, said that Dari and Pashto programs of Deutsche Welle was started in September 1970 as a pilot phase and later it kicked off its regular programs.
Abbas Pur who resigned in 2005, says the Dari and Pashto programs was started under the shadow of cultural cooperation of Afghanistan and Germany. "The former Ambassador of Afghanistan in Bonn, Dr. Mohammad Yusuf, who was the Prime Minister before that, contacted German officials. As a result, Dari and Pashto languages were included in Deutsche Welle programs."
Gwinter Kenaba, a journalist and analyst of Islamic World and Asian countries, who was manager of Deutsche Welle's Afghanistan branch for several years, said they tried to open the world's door for an Afghanistan audience through their Dari and Pashto programs.
He said: "The programs provided information about Germany and its relations with Afghanistan. No doubt, this information had a vital role in strengthening relations between the two countries. I can say that this role of Deutsche Welle is worth praising."
"Media Is Neither Anyone's Foe Nor Friend"
Dr. Musa Samimi who served as manager of Deutsche Welle's Afghanistan branch from 2003 to 2010, in an interview with Deutsche Welle, pointed out to Afghanistan and Germany's historical relations, and said: "The Deutsche Welle Radio's role is based on trust and accuracy of news and the real content of information. Such a belief itself is the outcome of historical happenings and the specification of Deutsche Welle Radio's programs."
During the cold war when the media freedom and freedom of speech was dependent on the Soviet and socialist blocs, the two were faced with limitations and restrictions. At that time, the Deutsche Welle broadcasting and other western media were the only source of free information for people of these countries. After the 1978 coup and particularly after the invasion of the then USSR, freedom of media in Afghanistan came under the control of the government. Therefore, the changes and happenings in Afghanistan came under the attention of western media – including Deutsche Welle – more than at any other time.
When asked about the Deutsche Welle programs after political changes in Afghanistan, Gwinter Kenaba, who started working with Deutsche Welle in 1979, said: "Relations between nations are not directly related to media. Media is neither anyone's foe nor friend."
He said the duty of media is to broadcast accurate, real and unbiased information. Considering this reality, Deutsche Welle Radio had programs about Germany and Europe in Dari and Pashto languages.
He also said that after the USSR invasion, the Deutsche Welle Radio struggled to provide information for the people in Dari and Pashto languages. They wanted to tell people that "how people think about the situation of Afghanistan here in Germany." He mentioned that through such information it had struggled to assure the Afghans that "Germany counts the fate of people of Afghanistan as serious."
However, the darkest era of media in Afghanistan was during the Taliban rule. This period was not only a terrible censorship on media but also media outlets were banned or destroyed at that time.
Television Broadcasting Cooperation between Kabul and Berlin
TV programs and broadcasting was banned during the Taliban rule. The Afghanistan's National Radio Channel was broadcasting under the name Radio Sharia which included religious preaching and propaganda about their (the Taliban's) regime.
After the fall of the Taliban regime, Deutsche Welle not only expanded its broadcasting in Afghanistan, but also helped the National Radio TV Network in preparing world news. Kenaba who was the manager of Deutsche Welle's Afghanistan branch, said they signed an agreement with the national radio and TV network. He said such cooperation is known as an important improvement in Afghan-German relations. "World news was broadcast every evening after local news and the pictures and videos which were prepared in Berlin were broadcast through the TV channel in Dari and Pashto languages."
He also said that another important cooperation of Deutsche Welle with Afghanistan was the training of young Afghan journalists. "A high number of Afghans received training in journalism, management and media techniques at the Deutsche Welle academy."
Deutsche Welle's Role in Afghanistan's Reconstruction
At the Bonn Conference in 2001, where the world countries discussed a transitional government for Afghanistan, Germany committed long-term cooperation with Afghanistan in different sectors including reconstruction and rehabilitation, aimed at establishing a law-based government in Afghanistan.
Discussing this issue, Dr. Samimi said: "Germany has played a considerable military role in Afghanistan's security – in the formation of international forces. This country (Germany) has played its role in Afghanistan's reconstruction and rehabilitation by providing 200 million Euro every year."
He said Deutsche Welle's special program named "Afghanistan's Reconstruction" which has been broadcast since 2007, was made possible with financial help from Germany's Foreign Ministry. He said this was an example of the commitment of Germany's Federal Republic.
"The reconstruction magazine of Deutsche Welle Voice of Germany has accompanied reconstruction and rehabilitation projects in Afghanistan and can play a vital role in support of planning and discussions through different news considering the thoughts and comments of the people."
Pointing to the 100th anniversary of Afghan-German relations, Gwinter who has worked as a diplomatic reporter in Berlin, is familiar with Dari language. He termed Deutsche Welle's role as important in the friendship and relations between the two countries.
"The Dari and Pashto program will be an important part of German-Afghan relations in future as well," he said.