Open Jirga: BBC launches Afghanistan political debate show

Audiences have a lot of questions to ask, and this series of debate shows will provide an opportunity to air their views, hopes and fears."Lutfullah Latif, editor, BBC service for Afghanistan
Date: 14.12.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.11
Category: Corporate
The BBC and Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) have joined forces to launch a new political debate and discussion show, Open Jirga. The series, which is the first of its kind in Afghanistan, is presented by popular BBC journalist Daud Junbish.
  • Open Jirga gives Afghans a chance to question politicians on country’s future
  • Political debate show attracts panellists including government ministers
  • Presented by BBC journalist Daud Junbish

It is produced by Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) with the BBC’s service for Afghanistan in Pashto and Dari, and BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development charity.

Recorded in Dari and Pashto, Open Jirga (jirga means ‘assembly’ in Afghan languages) has a broad reach.  The show provides people from across Afghanistan’s diverse communities with a platform to share their opinions with national leaders on the country’s future.

“Afghanistan is undergoing major transitions linked to the drawdown of international forces and the presidential elections in 2014,” says Lutfullah Latif, editor of the BBC’s service for Afghanistan. “Audiences have a lot of questions to ask, and this series of debate shows will provide an opportunity to air their views, hopes and fears.”

Open Jirga launched on RTA on Monday 10 December at 2100 and on the BBC’s service for Afghanistan in Pashto and Dari at 1900.

The studio audience from across the country took part in an animated discussion in the first episode, which tackled both the impact of the military withdrawal in 2014 on Afghanistan’s future, and the capacity and strength of the country’s security services.

A high-profile panel responded to tough questions from the audience. The panel included the Minster of the Interior, the Chief of Staff for Operations at the Defence Ministry, a female MP, Shukria Barakzai, the former Afghan Intelligence Chief, and former Deputy Interior Minister.

One audience member from Kabul asked: "The country's borders are open to Iran and Pakistan. When these modern weapons are taken away [in 2014], how can the Afghan people be confident that the national borders are secure?"

When Junbish started to wrap up the show, many in the audience stood up and called out: “The debate has just begun!”

“This programme is the result of a decade-long aspiration,” says Shirazuddin Siddiqi, BBC Media Action’s Afghanistan Country Director. “It will play an important role in Afghanistan’s media landscape by bringing ordinary Afghans together with state officials.”

Jalal Mahmoodi, deputy Director General at RTA added: “Our country has reached a critical moment in its history. Open Jirga provides our nation with the platform to debate and explore the choices we are faced with”.

Five more episodes tackling issues including the country’s economy will broadcast over the coming months.

In preparation for the debates, in-depth audience research was undertaken by BBC Media Action in seven provinces to ensure the programme’s focus on the issues that count to people across the country.

Notes to editors

  • BBC Media Action, formerly BBC World Service Trust, is the BBC’s international development charity. It uses media and communication to inform, connect and empower people around the world. It trains journalists and supports media development where infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed. It also produces a wide range of programming and outputs using new and traditional media to help people understand their rights and hold their authorities to account, to make informed decisions about their health and to improve their resilience to disaster.
  • BBC Media Action is funded by external grants and voluntary contributions, from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the European Union, UN agencies and charitable foundations. Registered charity number: 1076235. For more information visit www.bbcmediaaction.org
  • BBC World Service’s output for Afghanistan features multimedia content in Dari and Pashto (produced by the BBC’s service for Afghanistan), as well we in Uzbek (produced by the BBC Uzbek service).
  • The BBC programmes can be heard on FM in nearly 20 cities and large towns in Afghanistan, as well as on medium wave (in parts of Northern Afghanistan) and shortwave. The audio of the programmes is also accessible via the websites bbcpashto.com, bbcpersian.com/afghanistan and bbcuzbek.com/afghanistan. The BBC World Service news headlines and breaking news alerts in Dari, Pashto and English are available to users of Roshan mobile-phone network in Afghanistan. 
  • Open Jirga has been made with funding from DFID.

Contact details

If you need any additional information or would like to arrange an interview please contact Aoife Allen, Press, PR and Events Manager: aoife.allen@bbc.co.uk or telephone +44 78 27786612.