Ali Ahmad Jalali, former Interior Minister of Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005 and former Voice of America (VOA) key broadcaster to Afghanistan from 1982 to 2003, dismissed as fake recent media reports that he was going to accept a position in the new Taliban government, while chiefs of U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) and VOA say that they “have been working around the clock with the U.S. Department of State and other federal partners to get our staff to safety,” as many USAGM employees and contractors and their families have not been evacuated from Afghanistan in the last few weeks.
In an e-mail send to staff on Sunday, August 15, Kelu Chao, the Acting CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) said: “As we watch the events unfold in Afghanistan today, we do so not only as journalists but as family members.” She informed USAGM employees:
Today we are doing everything we can to keep our local VOA, RFE/RL, and TSI personnel safe. My security team and senior staff have been working around the clock with the U.S. Department of State and other federal partners to get our staff to safety. Rest assured; we will do everything in our power to protect them.
In an e-mail sent to staff on Monday, August 16, Yolanda Lopez, Acting VOA Director, said:
As you know, the situation in Afghanistan is increasingly unstable. VOA management is doing what it can, with the assistance of USAGM leadership, to keep our Afghan colleagues and their families safe. These are very challenging times, with rapidly changing circumstances and we are navigating in unchartered territory. We are in contact with our stringers to the best of our abilities. We are also working hard on keeping our signals up so we can continue to inform a population desperate for news of what is happening in their country and the world.
The situation in Afghanistan is tragic not just for USAGM staff but for all Afghans. Anyone who was ever a journalist in the 1970s remembers Saigon.
Former Voice of America journalists have been involved in Afghan politics. A article in the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) 2002 Annual Report, titled “Afghanistan Project,” quoted Ali Jalali, the former head of Voice of America’s Pashtu Service who in 2003 became Afghanistan Interior Minister. Ali Jalali said at that time that “Afghans depend more than ever on accurate, balanced and comprehensive news coverage about politics, health, education and many other topics.” Prior to 2018, the Broadcasting Board of Governors was the name of the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
In the last few days, Dr. Ali Jalali’s name has been mentioned in connection with the events in Afghanistan, but Dr. Jalali tweeted today: “Rumors circulating in social media saying that I have been appointed the head of the interim government in Afghanistan are false. I have not been considered for such a post nor am I interested in the position. I dismissed the rumors as baseless in my earlier posts.”
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