Afghanistan Communications

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Telephone and telegraph networks link the major towns. In the early 1990s about 31,200 telephones were in use but there was only one public telephone in Kabul. One international telephone link is maintained through Iran. The government provides radio broadcasts in Pashto, Dari, and ten other languages on a handful of AM and shortwave radio-broadcast stations. Many Afghans own transistor radios, and loudspeaker systems in some villages carry the broadcasts to larger audiences. The first Afghan television station, built with Japanese aid, went on the air in Kabul in 1978. In the mid-1990s several television stations were run by factions and local councils, providing only intermittent service.

The history of newspapers, magazines, and other publications in Afghanistan has varied, depending upon the level of censorship in the ruling government. The first printed newspaper was distributed in 1875, and two other small newspapers were printed just after 1900. With the beginning of the reign of King Amanullah in 1919, the press flourished with the publication of more than 15 newspapers and magazines. By the 1950s, 95 percent of the nation's printed materials came from the government. The small remainder was produced by provincial hand-operated presses. In 1962 the Kabul Times appeared as the first English-language paper. Bakhtar News Agency subscribed to a variety of international press services and its news bulletin was available as well. Following the 1978 coup the Kabul Times was renamed the Kabul New Times and began publishing Communist rhetoric that was reminiscent of the worst days of the Cold War. The newspaper was highly confrontative and hostile to the West. In reaction to the suppression of the free press, antiregime shabnamah (night letters) were secretly printed (primarily in Kabul) with uncensored news and opinions. In the early 1990s Afghanistan had more than 10 newspapers, but by the mid-1990s this number had dropped off as the suppression of Afghanistan's media increased.

Communications in Afghanistan is under the control of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT). It has rapidly expanded after the Karzai administration took over in late 2001, and has embarked on wireless companies, internet, radio stations and television channels. The Afghan government signed a $64.5 billion agreement in 2006 with China's ZTE on the establishment of a countrywide optical fiber cable network. The project began to improve telephone, internet, television and radio broadcast services throughout Afghanistan. About 90% of the country's population had access to communication services in 2014. Afghanistan uses its own space satellite called Afghansat 1. There are about 18 million mobile phone users in the country. Telecom companies include Afghan Telecom, Afghan Wireless, Etisalat, MTN, Roshan, Salaam and a few others. Over 50% of the population have access to the internet.

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