Illustration by Lisk Feng

Hearts and Minds Media

The United States attempts to spread democracy by broadcasting news around the world. How’s that going in Afghanistan?

April 17, 2023

For decades, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty have broadcast into countries all over, in dozens of languages. Yet in some places where the United States has invested the most soft power, authoritarianism has only gotten stronger—and journalists remain at risk. That may be especially true in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s takeover. “The US tends to put things in moral frameworks that are often a distortion of what they’re actually doing,” Hannah Gurman, a scholar at New York University who has studied hearts-and-minds campaigns, says. “It’s always obscuring the actual violence of US power in these places. It’s always propaganda.”

Emily Russell was a CJR fellow, and is now an editor at The Week.