26 November 2009

Sudan: Darfur Radio Show Launched - Programme Will Overcome Sudanese Censorship to Deliver News On War Crimes Justice Developments

press release

Darfuris will this week tune into the first episode of an IWPR co-produced programme on local and international justice issues, aired by a diaspora radio station, which is estimated to regularly attract over a million listeners in the Darfur region.

Called On the Scale [Fi al Mizan], the show is to broadcast directly into the region from the studios of Radio Dabanga in Hilversum, the Netherlands. The majority of the anticipated listeners live in internal displacement camps in Darfur, and across the border in refugee camps in eastern Chad. People living in south Sudan are also expected to tune in.

Radio Dabanga is run by Dutch-based Darfuris who work with a network of correspondents on the ground in Sudan to broadcast news- and magazine-style programming three hours per day into Darfur.

The station estimates that over one million people tune in to listen to the station when it is on air, based on listener feedback and field research by reporters.

Government censorship is routine in Sudan with newspapers and radios forbidden to write or broadcast news reports critical of the government, making it virtually impossible for a free press to operate within the country.

"This is why IWPR is so excited to work with Radio Dabanga which is managing, thanks to being located outside Sudan and a range of technical measures, to get uncensored news into Darfur," said Katy Glassborow, producer of On the Scale.

"In the countries where IWPR works, we have seen the negative impact of misinformation, government propaganda and censorship in countries which are going through conflict or emerging from war. We think unbiased information is a tool for ordinary people, and has been in short supply in Darfur."

The Sudanese government tries to jam Radio Dabanga's signal, but because of technical measures and the addition of a second shortwave frequency, the signal can still be received clearly throughout the region.

Tajeldin Abdalla Adam is one of the Darfuri journalists working on the programme.

"The issue of justice is highly important for the listeners in Darfur given the scale of the atrocities that have occurred since 2003. This programme will offer the audience a voice they never had before and give them the opportunity to be involved in the process of justice and the quest for it," he said.

Assadig Musa, a Darfur lawyer working with the On the Scale team, added, "Justice is ... a very important factor of stability across societies. I am very pleased to be involved in this programme and hope to contribute to the raised awareness of my people vis-a-vis justice and the rule of law in their lives."

Last year, IWPR trained many members of the Dabanga team about reporting on justice issues, particularly the International Criminal Court, ICC, which has launched cases against four Sudanese including the president Omar al-Bashir.

Hildebrand Bijleveld from Press Now, the NGO that runs Radio Dabanga, emphasises the need for professional capacity building for journalists covering issues concerning justice.

"Often media outlets just air accusations based on the agenda of interest groups. This programme tries to break these cycles of non-constructive shouting by providing well-researched journalistic features."

On the Scale is broadcast in basic Darfur Arabic, Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit - the four major languages of the region.

The first programme is about a Darfur chief who has been arrested and detained under Sudan's emergency laws. Family members and his lawyer are interviewed and explain the circumstances of his arrest and conditions of his detention.

Also interviewed is the information minister and spokesman for the government in North Darfur, who maintains that the security situation in Darfur justifies individuals being detained in this way.

Future shows feature the African Union on justice solutions for Darfur; the rights of internally displaced people returning to their villages; and sexual violence in Darfur and how women can seek justice. For more information, please contact Katy Glassborow, katy@iwpr.net or ring +31 (0) 70 322 5177.

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