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VOA Urdu Expands to 12 1/2 Hours to Cover Pakistan Emergency


VOA Urdu Service is now broadcasting an all-news format

Washington, D.C., November 7, 2007 - The Voice of America's Urdu Service has expanded its radio news broadcasts to 12.5 hours daily from five hours in response to the crisis in Pakistan.

"The Pakistani government has shut down all independent media inside Pakistan," said VOA Director Danforth Austin. "We find ourselves, along with the BBC, among the only international broadcasters currently heard inside of Pakistan."

VOA's Urdu Service is now broadcasting an all-news format on radio in response to the Pakistani government's crackdown. VOA's two television affiliates-GEO TV News and Aaj TV-are off the air inside of Pakistan. However, VOA continues to reach the audience via radio and the Internet.

Today, VOA Urdu added an additional radio broadcast from 11:30 a.m. to 12 noon Pakistan time to supplement its 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Pakistan time live news and current affairs programming.

Some highlights of coverage include live interviews with Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, two former Prime Ministers of Pakistan, who were guests on the VOA Urdu program Roundtable Discussion, as the news blackout was being imposed in Pakistan. VOA Urdu also interviewed many Pakistani opposition figures, including Iftekhar Gilani, spokesperson of Benazir Bhutto's party, and religious leaders such as Qazi Hussain Ahmad, along with man-on-the-street reaction in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, and Islamabad.

In addition to VOA Urdu, VOA's six-hour Deewa Radio, live broadcasts in Pashto to the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, also switched to an all-news format to cover the crisis. Deewa has also provided extensive coverage including the U.S. and international reaction and has interviewed a large number of political, religious and tribal leaders inside Pakistan who are under house arrest.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 115 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.

For more information, call the Office of Public Affairs at (202) 203-4959, or e-mail publicaffairs@voa.gov.

Our Urdu webpage, www.VOANews.com/urdu, contains the latest news, links, and webcasts. We also have a special page in English focused specifically on Pakistan, www.VOANews.com/english/Pakistan.cfm.

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