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Media: From the East to the West Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Zuhra Bahman, United Kingdom Sep 25, 2003
Citizen Journalism   Opinions


Media: From the East to the West As long as I can remember, the BBC World Service (broadcasted from London at 1615 GMT), Voice of America (broadcasted from Washington DC), and Voice of Iran (broadcasted from Tehran) was what we listened to in order to get information about our own city, Mazar, the survivor of two attacks by the infamous Taliban, and my country. At the time my city itself was the proud owner of a warlord-controlled radio station, that broadcasted patriotic songs whenever we were in desperate need of some news about the situation of our city particularly about why and who was bombing us. Those of us who were lucky enough to have electricity also had the privilege of watching CNN, BBC, Star Network’s news, Pakistan Televisions news and occasionally in between floods of songs and dance the news on Indian television networks such as Zee TV and Sony.

At the time media looked like the ultimate power to me. I felt that they could do something, they were the only thing that almost everyone in my country, despite the differences that made them kill each other, listened to. At times, desperate for the fighting to end I wished I was allowed just two minutes on these mighty radio stations so that I could yell at those fighting and killing and make them stop. The importance of these radio stations increased further when my city was under siege by the Taliban in 1997. The TV aerials were brought down and TV sets were hidden because of fear from Taliban. Electricity was cut off as well. People listened to radio to know how far the Taliban were and how imminent was their triumph in capturing the city. On one hand Voice of Iran said that they were miles off the city centre and that they were massacring ethnic Hazaras on their way On the other hand Pakistani and Arab radios talked of the public welcoming the Taliban in my city. The media was reporting what they felt should have happened ignoring the need for accuracy. I felt that although the big radio stations of the west had the power that they were not using it to their full potential.

I got out of Afghanistan in 1998, knowing how being ill informed and unheard I felt, I was determined to use the might of western media to make my country peoples’ and my own voice heard. I then started writing, I wrote for little magazines about young people’s issues, about war, about how I was misrepresented in media. My own experience was eye- opening. At times I was told what to write, other times I was edited to suit what the publisher wanted me, sometimes I was too left-wing, other times I was too right-wing.

At the beginning I was fascinated by the western media, thinking that it is the ultimate place one can practice their right of freedom of speech. I used some of this freedom when I wrote, and when I talked on the radio and TV, telling those who listened how I felt about the war, my country and my perception as an Afghan woman.

In London I obsessively followed the media coverage of Bush and Blair’s “war on terror”. When Afghans were being fought against in this “war on terror,” the media was going crazy. Millions of westerners were given a crash course on western media version of Islamic Fundamentalism and ethnic conflict in Afghanistan. As the war got to its peak the war between different media outlets also got more furious. On one hand Afghan causalities of war were being used as the token of anti-Americanism by the Arab television stations such as Al Jazera, which totally undermined the dignity of dead and wounded. On the other hand, the Western media such as BBC one of whose reporters claimed to have “liberated” the people of Kabul was using the images of my country people as justification of their government’s war.

As the world media was focusing on Afghanistan, the country itself, in theory, regained its freedom of speech and expression. In the post-Taliban era in Afghanistan, several radio stations, magazines and newspapers have been created but unfortunately they are not used to maximize the common good. Most reproduce features from old magazines etc, hardly realising their great potential in educating and informing the country’s people about the truth and their rights.

One thing that I have learnt, while being deprived of expressing myself in Afghanistan, due to Taliban and other warlord regimes, is that whenever there is an opportunity of expressing a view it should be clutched and used. Small scale magazines, newspapers and websites are all chances which should be used to inform, educate and empower people.



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Zuhra Bahman

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Absolutely Beautiful
Allison Sawyer | Oct 3rd, 2003
When I was reading this article it nearly brought to tears. It is surely one of the most powerfull articles I have read in a long time. I wanna thank Zuhra for sharing such a wonderful piece and help to educate more people about how important the media play in our daily lives no matter where we may come from. I hope you continue to empower and educate people all over the world. You have not only gained my respect but I am sure the worlds as well.

Lynne Lessard | Aug 18th, 2008
Wow, very interesting read. Well done!

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