Voice of America – VOA offers largely optimistic Taliban-focused news from Afghanistan meant to reassure the Afghans, particularly Afghan women. Examples of VOA optimistic and positive news from Afghanistan include a VOA illustration with red poppies, which symbolize remembrance and hope for a peaceful future. Critics say that such VOA optimistic news from Afghanistan is too one-sided, naive and possibly dangerous, especially for Afghan women and girls.

USAGM Watch Commentary

We repost for the purpose of study and analysis texts and screenshots of some of Voice of America (VOA) news reports from Afghanistan. Tax-funded VOA in the $800-million U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) has been conveying a good number of optimistic-sounding messages from the Taliban, many of them unchallenged or only mildly questioned. According to critics, such mostly positive and optimistic VOA reporting with regard to the Taliban creates an impression that the situation in Afghanistan is far more calmer and much more safer for the Afghans, including women and children, and for foreigners, than what other media outlets are reporting. Critics said that not too long ago, VOA reported in a similar manner from Cuba during anti-regime protests in Havana focusing heavily on statements from Cuban communist officials. Iranian-Americans also have complained about VOA’s heavy focus on quoting Iranian regime officials without a sufficient balance. Independent Russian journalists were outraged recently that the VOA Russian Service helped Russian President Vladimir Putin with a misleading report.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) is reporting that “Journalists and their families are in grave danger in Afghanistan. The Taliban have no compunction about carrying out targeted killings as the case of a DW journalist shows.” SEE: Relative of DW journalist killed by the Taliban.

DW: Taliban fighters hunting a DW journalist have shot dead one member of his family and seriously injured another. The Taliban were conducting a house-to-house search to try and find the journalist, who now works in Germany.

The news from Afghanistan from the Voice of America is overall much more positive and heavily focused on quoting Taliban spokesmen. The Voice of America is quoting a Taliban spokesman as saying that “if women work in line with Sharia they can work freely in media.” VOA also reported that “Residents in Kabul said life was returning to normal in the city of more than six million as they ventured out of their homes.”

The VOA Charter, which was signed into law by President Gerald R. Ford in July 12, 1976, says that VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.

END USAGM Watch Commentary


This is how the Voice of America Public Relations Office describes VOA:

Voice of America (VOA) is the largest U.S. international broadcaster, providing news and information in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of more than 280 million people.* VOA produces content for digital, television, and radio platforms. It is easily accessed via your mobile phone and on social media. It is also distributed by satellite, cable, FM and MW, and is carried on a network of more than 2,500 affiliate stations.

VOA is part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), the government agency that oversees all non-military, U.S. international broadcasting. It is funded by the U.S. Congress.

An essential guarantee of the journalistic credibility of Voice of America content is the “firewall” enshrined in the 1994 U.S. International Broadcasting Act. The firewall prohibits interference by any U.S. government official in the objective, independent reporting of news, thereby safeguarding the ability of our journalists to develop content that reflects the highest professional standards of journalism, free of political interference.

*Critics of USAGM and VOA say that USAGM and VOA audience figures are highly suspect and have not been independently verify. They may include meaningless web and social media clicks as well as access from the United States, which by law, is not a VOA target audience.


Taliban Vow to Respect Women’s Rights ‘Within Islamic Law’

By Ayaz Gul,  Ayesha Tanzeem

Updated August 17, 2021 01:35 PM

In front of a Taliban flag, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, center, speaks at his first news conference, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 17, 2021. 

ISLAMABAD/KABUL – The Taliban vowed to respect women’s rights “within Islamic law” and form an “inclusive Islamic” government as the radical movement consolidates its hold over the war-torn country.

The group stunned the world over the weekend when they retook power in the Afghan capital, conquering almost all the country’s 34 provinces in just over a week’s time.  
Their lightening battlefield advances were primarily the outcome of the largely unexpected surrender or retreat by U.S.-trained Afghan security forces in the face of Taliban attacks.  
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said Taliban leaders are engaged in “hectic” discussions with other rival groups and U.S. special peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, in Doha, Qatar, which houses the Taliban’s political office.  
“In a few days there will be, of course, a transfer of power,” Shaheen told VOA by phone from the Qatari capital. “The deliberations and talks are underway to form an Afghan inclusive Islamic government. It will be announced soon.”
The United States and the global community in general have vowed not to recognize any government in Kabul imposed by force, fearing Taliban-led rule would prolong the Afghan civil war and threaten human rights in the country.

FILE – Afghan women wait to receive food aid in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 21, 2020. Their rights are expected to be dramatically curtailed with the return of the Taliban regime.

Afghan women’s rights
Women’s rights are of particular concern, with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday calling on the Taliban to protect “the hard-won rights of Afghan women and girls.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, while addressing a news conference in Kabul in his first public appearance, said women “will be given all their rights within Sharia “the Islamic laws.”  Mujahid also said if women work in line with Sharia they can work freely in media.

Speaking to VOA earlier, Suhail Shaheen declined to clearly state whether Afghan women will be part of the future government.
“About women, we have announced already that they can have access to work and education by observing hijab. Today, you may have seen on (Afghan) TV stations women wearing hijab and doing their job,” he said.
Female news anchors broadcast news on Afghan mainstream television stations without interruption but covering their heads with a cloth or hijab.
Shaheen said the Taliban announced Tuesday a “general amnesty” for all, including government officials, and urged them to return to work.

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint near the U.S. Embassy that was previously manned by American troops, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 17, 2021.

Kabul streets
Residents in Kabul said life was returning to normal in the city of more than six million as they ventured out of their homes.
A female journalist for the private Tolo News channel could be seen on the streets reporting on the latest situation but acknowledging there were a very few women seen in the markets. She said women feared the unknown.  A woman anchor was seen interviewing a Taliban official.
However, there were reports of incidents elsewhere in Afghanistan where women complained of harassment by the Taliban. Shaheen dismissed those reports as baseless, saying they were the work of “spoilers” to defame the Taliban.  
In Kabul, a so-called Taliban complaint commission has been swiftly set up and officials there have been urging residents to reach out the commission with any complaints of harassment or violence so they can be addressed.  
Taliban officials have also been visiting government offices and hospitals to assure staff there, women, not to worry and continue performing their duties as usual. 

Taliban rule

During their first stint in power – from 1996 until 2001 when they were ousted by the U.S.-led invasion in the wake of the September 11th attacks – the Taliban ruled Afghanistan with a strict interpretation of the Quran and Sharia law.  
A swift whipping across the back of the legs by cadres from the ‘Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice’ was common for those tardy at prayer times.
Public floggings, amputations of limbs for thieves and even executions were scheduled for Fridays – sometimes held at the national stadium. And women were mostly barred from working or studying and forced to wear an all-covering burqa in public.
Two days after taking over the capital, the Taliban are patrolling the city in small convoys. “They don’t harass people but of course the people are scared,” a shopkeeper told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Taliban’s Afghanistan Takeover — a Timeline   The insurgent group swept through Afghanistan, taking most of its 34 provincial capitals in about nine days; it reached Kabul early Sunday 

Meanwhile, evacuation flights resumed Tuesday at Kabul’s international airport after a chaotic day in which thousands of people gathered there as diplomats and civilians tried to leave Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban takeover.

In another development, Amir Khan Muttaqi, a top Taliban leader and member of the group’s Doha-based political office, arrived in the Afghan capital, where his delegation held meetings with former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council.
The discussions focused on security and governance-related issues; a Taliban official told VOA on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.
“We are in contact with the leaders of the respected Islamic Taliban movement,” Karzai said in a post-meeting joint video statement with Abdullah posted on the official Facebook page of the former president.

Some information for this report came from AFP.

More VOA optimistic news from Afghanistan

Read on USAGM Watch: As Taliban Kills Family Member of DW Journalist, VOA Offers Optimistic News from Afghanistan – Example I