Afghanistan: expansion of 3G helps newsgathering

The expansion of 3G networks in Afghanistan this year is expected to greatly benefit television journalists working for the country’s 24/7 news channel, TOLOnews (

Etisalat has already introduced a service in several cities and two other telcos, Roshan and MTN, are also deploying similar networks.

Zaid Mohseni
Zaid Mohseni, COO of MOBY Group which owns TOLO TV, said, “The roll-out is meant to be quite extensive. Etisalat the last time I spoke to them were having a 60% coverage in Kabul and they'd already started in several other cities.”

He said that currently “in Kabul the crew will go out and do a story and bring it back to the office to edit it, script it and create packages which will go out on air. For the remote reporters, they do exactly the same thing except they send the packages to us via the internet or - for breaking news - we will use the BGAN or similar type of devices but they are quite expensive.”

With the expansion of 3G, Zaid said: ”The expectation is that we'll be able to send more reports from remote sites more cheaply and easier than we were doing before. With USB dongles, if journalists have their laptop with them, they can do an edit on the fly and send a clip without having to go back to the office and do it there. We can also do a live 3G call.”

Working in Afghanistan as a journalist is no easy task. Zaid explained, “Security is a big issue for us. We have to be very careful in terms of some of the stories that we do. In certain areas outside of the cities the local government and some non-government people have a lot of power and they can threaten our staff, so there is an element of self-censorship which has to be balanced with the requirements of what any journalist has to do which is to uncover the truth and report it but self-preservation is also very important.”

He said, “At one stage last year we counted that there were 12 instances of our staff being locked up for no reason by the government. They were released eventually but that gives you an example of the stress that our staff go through every time this happens.”

With the planned withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, there is an element of uncertainty about what lies ahead. But Zaid is optimistic: “Firstly, we are not sure if there will be a total departure of foreign troops. If there is, I think it will be an orderly phased withdrawal. Secondly, we think the vacuum will be filled by Afghan security forces. Thirdly, we go to dangerous places now but we are still able to do our reports so, again, it may not make a huge difference to us. But in the longer term if the security situation deteriorates considerably then of course it will affect us.”
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