Covering the War, with Saad Mohseni

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Saad Mohseni is one of Afghanistan’s most influential businesspeople, and the co-founder of it’s most popular television network, TOLO TV.

He is the son of an Afghan diplomat who, soon after the 1979 Soviet invasion, sought political asylum in Australia. There, he worked in finance until the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, when he returned to Kabul with his brothers in search of business opportunities.

The three brothers founded MOBY Group in 2003, and within a couple of years had established Arman FM, Afghanistan’s first privately owned radio station, a revelation in a country where music and independent news had been banned under the Taliban regime, and by far it’s most popular radio show today.

Next, came TOLO TV, which produced its 15th season of the hit music talent show Afghan Star this year. The Pashto language Lemar TV came in 2006 and then, in 2010, TOLO News, Afghanistan’s first 24 hour television news network and, again, the country's most popular today.

I spoke with Mohseni the same day intra-Afghan talks were getting underway in Doha, and asked him whether he still felt, as he said a year ago, whether the US had thrown Afghanistan under a bus in an effort to end its military involvement in the country.

We talked about his lack of confidence in the team negotiating on behalf of the Afghan government, and his belief that at least a minimal U.S. military presence should remain in the country to ensure agreements between all parties are adhered to and, just as importantly, to keep Afghanistan’s neighbours in check.

Mohseni talks about the slow creep of progress since 2001, how he sees hope for the future in former hardline Taliban who’ve come off the battlefield into modern lives in Kabul and now own TV sets and watch Turkish soap-operas in the evening.

We discuss corruption and striking a balance between retaining Afghan culture while pushing for progress through his efforts to encourage critical thinking and integrating women into public life and the economy.

And, finally, we talk about the inherent practical and ethical difficulties faced by the media in an environment where one side has declared it a legitimate military target, and about the future of the media industry in Afghanistan at a time when the international funding that props it up is beginning to disappear.

Click here to view the TOLO News documentary Daesh in Afghanistan.

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