The walls are adorned with traditional Pashtun art. Snippets of conversation in Pashto can be heard against the background of contemporary Pashto music coming from the editing booth in the back. This office on the 4th floor of the VOA headquarters in Washington, D.C. is where VOA's Deewa (Light) Radio produces daily programs aimed at the one of the world's most dangerous hot spots.
"We at Deewa Radio work to explain complex global and regional politics as well as local issues of concern to the Pashtun people," says Nafees Takar, Deewa Radio's Managing Editor. Deewa Radio programs are beamed to the restless border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding. The region is poor, mountainous and underdeveloped. Its estimated 30 million Pashtun inhabitants are mostly uneducated and often illiterate. For many, radio is the only means of communication with the outside world.
A large map of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province is displayed prominently over Nafees's desk. Nafees grew up in the village of Takar near Peshawar, the provincial capital on the Pakistani side of the border, and knows first-hand the importance of providing objective news and information to people back home.
VOA Deewa Radio strives for a two-way communication with its audience. Its staff of 13 fields more than 300 calls a day during their scheduled programs. The shows combine global news and reports from more than 20 stringers in the target region with a good dose of music to attract young audiences. Programs are available on shortwave and, in some places, on FM as well as on the Internet.
VOA's Deewa Radio tailors its programs to specific needs of its audience in the border region, covering such matters as health issues or the role of women in the conservative Pashtun society. There is also lighter fare. Listeners tuning in can hear reports on the latest tournament in the ancient horseback sport of Buzkashi in Pakistan's northern Baluchistan province, or the latest hit song by famous local Pashtun singer Nazia Iqbal.
Since its launch in October 2006, it has attracted millions of listeners on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. "Our programming resonates with audiences starved for reliable news and information on events that affect their lives," says Nafees, quoting a grateful listener (Shafiq Inqilabi) from the volatile Swat region of North West Frontier Province, who said, "Deewa Radio is the only source of reliable information for the millions Pashtuns living in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I tell my village people in mosque and Hujra (guest house) to tune in to Deewa Radio to get educated on local, regional and international news."
To listen online, or for more information, visit online. For more on Nafees Takar, see VOA's 2009 online calendar (June).