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Making New Friends in Afghanistan

TV Ashna host Said Sulaiman AshnaSaid Sulaiman Ashna's day begins long before sunrise. A host for VOA's TV Ashna, he gets up at 3:00 a.m. in order to be in his office by 4:30 a.m. to prepare for the day's broadcasting. He grabs a cup of strong black tea on his way to Studio 51, one of four TV studios in VOA's Washington, D.C. headquarters, where TV Ashna produces its daily show for the volatile Afghanistan.

Launched in 2006, TV Ashna airs live TV programming in Dari and Pashto, the two most widely spoken languages in Afghanistan. The Pashto-speaking Ashna studied journalism in Kabul and hosted both radio and television shows there; he also trained in radio and news bulletin production at Harvard University in 2004. His colleague Lina Rozbih, a news anchor who left Afghanistan as a young girl, hosts the first segment of the show in the Dari language.

Lina and Ashna are prominent faces on TV Ashna ("friend" in both Dari and Pashto), and both feel a strong commitment to their audience.

"TV Ashna serves as a gateway for me to connect my people in Afghanistan with the outside world, particularly the U.S.," says Ashna. "I get satisfaction from my work and feel like I am educating someone in Afghanistan with every piece of information I present through TV Ashna," he continues.

TV Ashna host Lina RozbihThe programs tackle issues such as democratic practices and women's rights, attracting a particularly enthusiastic audience among young Afghan women.

"We at TV Ashna were the first female news anchors who went on air without a scarf to Afghanistan, and the response from the people was overwhelming. In fact, Afghan women and girls regard us as role models," said Lina.

"I am grateful for the changing role of women, and the freedom provided by TV Ashna that enables me to work side-by-side with men, which otherwise is difficult in male-dominated societies like Afghanistan," she added.

Host Said Sulaiman Ashna with colleague Mohammad AyobViewers in Afghanistan watch TV Ashna via satellite and its local affiliate, Radio and TV Afghanistan (RTA), the state-run central television broadcaster. TV Ashna's weekly audience has climbed to nearly one million people inside and outside the country as the show continues to attract new friends, eager for television and other information sources once banned by the Taliban as a source of moral corruption.

"We bought power generators and batteries only to watch TV Ashna's programs for one hour every evening," wrote regular viewer Mohammad Anwar from the outskirts of Afghanistan's Kabul province.

Such strong support encourages TV Ashna's dedicated staff to continue serving their audience enthusiastically, so stay tuned!

By Ahmad Javid

TV Ashna's news, programs, and videos are also available online on the VOA website (in either Dari or Pashto) and on YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/VoaAshnaVideos. For more programs in Dari and Pashto, listen to VOA's Radio Ashna, 12 hours of continuous service that includes daily call-in shows and reporting from around Afghanistan.