Afghanistan's Open Jirga

BBC Media Action joined forces with the BBC Afghan Service and Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) to make the debate programme Open Jirga (jirga means 'assembly' in Afghan languages).

Recorded in Dari and Pashto, Open Jirga reaches out to all Afghans.

Afghanistan's media plays a critical role in the cultural and political life of the nation. But there are limited opportunities for dialogue between the public and the authorities.

That's why BBC Media Action joined forces with the BBC Afghan Service and Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) to make the debate programme Open Jirga (jirga means 'assembly' in Afghan languages).

The show gives panellists and audience members a platform to discuss issues of national importance during the country’s crucial period of transition towards parliamentary rule.

Recorded in both Dari and Pashto, men and women from Afghanistan's diverse communities put their questions to national leaders on Open Jirga. Hosted by well-known BBC journalist, Daud Junbish, topics of discussion have included; the role of women in public life, the rise in extremism, peace process negotiations and mass migration. Panellists have included politicians, sportspeople, activists and presidents.

A panel of five politicians on the stage, including then-president Hamid Karzai.
In 2014, Open Jirga enabled people to question the two presidential candidates.

We record the show in several of the country’s provinces. This gives people unable to travel to Kabul, whether for security reasons or because of cultural constraints, a chance to take part. It also gives viewers and listeners an insight into the concerns of people living in other regions, an important step towards fostering a sense of national unity.

In Kandahar province, historically a site of insurgency and insecurity, we recorded an episode on what it means to be ‘Afghan’ in front of the tomb of Ahamd Shah Durrani, the founder of modern Afghanistan.

Research among audience members in 2015 found that Open Jirga was the only TV programme in Afghanistan in which ordinary people could question officials. Several male and female respondents said Open Jirga differed from other programmes because women, in particular, were given the opportunity to question officials directly.

As one female listener said, “We watch [Open Jirga] so we can solve our daily issues. For example they discuss a problem in their programme and they try to solve it too, we should learn from them and solve our own problems.”

Project information

Project nameOpen Jirga 
FunderUK Department for International Development; UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Dates2011-2017; 2017-2020
OutputsOpen Jirga - Open Assembly
Broadcast partnersRadio Television Afghanistan, AEPO Afghan Education Production Organisation 
PartnerBBC Afghan Service