SUDAN WATCH: Last month Internews launched community radio 88 FM, the only station in Kurmuk, South Sudan

Monday, November 17, 2008

Last month Internews launched community radio 88 FM, the only station in Kurmuk, South Sudan

Report by Internews via Anyuak Media October 17, 2008 - In South Sudan, Community Radio Provides a Voice for the Voiceless:
October 16, 2008 (Nairobi) – Since Sudan’s 22-year old civil war ended in 2005, news has been slow in coming to the most remote regions of the country. To provide news and information and give voice to thousands of Sudanese, Internews has built four community radio stations in South Sudan and is training nascent journalists to run them. We are also planning to build two more this upcoming year.

Musa “Mosquito” in the studio

Photo: Musa “Mosquito” Atebera, a reporter at Voice of Community in Kauda, in the studio. (AM)

“I love my radio station because it is contributing to the reconciliation of my community,” says one of the newly minted journalists at the latest station Internews has launched, in Kurmuk, South Sudan. The station, called 88 FM, went on the air this month after more than a year of hard work and intensive training. It is the only station in the Kurmuk region.

“We were able to send out a signal today when testing the transmitter, and I wish you could have been able to see the excitement on everyone’s face when they were listening to the station,” said Sammy Muraya, a professional journalist from Kenya, who is working with the Kurmuk team to help launch the station. “I was walking with Dominic (the station manager) in the market here and he had borrowed a small radio and he made sure that he told everyone we met that the Kurmuk radio station was already on air. I have to say that the people up here have been waiting for so long for the station . . . everyone is so excited!”

88 FM in Kurmuk is part of Internews’ project, “Radio for Peace, Democracy and Development in South Sudan,” which began in 2006 through a grant from the US Agency for International Development.

Internews constructed the buildings, built the transmission towers, and secured frequency allocations for the stations. Equipment such as mixers, microphones, computers, recorders and editing software soon filled the stations. Because electricity is unavailable in the region, Internews installs alternative energy sources, including solar and wind power, in all its stations. It is one of the more technically challenging aspects of building stations in Sudan, to stay on the air consistently when there is no electricity. Using alternative energy involves carrying batteries that weigh 64 kilos up steep mountains to transmission sites, installing solar panels in places where they won’t get damaged by roaming goats and cows, and establishing back-up generator systems to recharge battery cells on cloudy days.

One after the other, the stations went on the air. The first three stations Internews established, Nhomlaau FM (whose name means “Freedom” in Dinka) in Maluakon, Naath FM (“Citizen” in Nuer) in Leer and Voice of Community in Kauda, each now broadcast six days a week, a minimum of eight hours per day, in at least ten different languages, including Arabic, Dinka, Maban, Uduk and Toro.

Journalists in these very rural parts of South Sudan are hard to come by. In fact, at the new station in Kurmuk, all five staff members were recruited solely on the basis of their enthusiasm and a strong desire to learn, and they had to be trained from scratch.

“I was having just an idea about being a journalist but, where to start and where to end was not known,” said station manager  Dominic Santo Atem. “But now I have the full idea and very good tools!”

In the coming year, Internews will continue to focus heavily on training, working to build the skills of young radio journalists in reporting, production and management skills, as well as understanding their role as community journalists and the media’s role as watchdogs of good governance and democracy. 

In an anonymous survey in which Internews asked the staff about their work, they reported a deep commitment and understanding of the role media play in their lives. “The radio promotes peace and reconciliation and brings out the voice of marginalized people,” explained one reporter. “For me, being a journalist means a lot,” reported another. “It is to educate, advocate and entertain the outside world and my community.”

Since much of Southern Sudan is underserved by other media, community radio offers a vital service to the population in providing news and information.

Deborah Ensor, Program Director for Internews in Sudan, explains, “Community radio differs from state or commercial radio in a number of ways. Its fundamental aim is to provide a voice for the voiceless, run by and for the community it serves, and accountable to them rather than shareholders, private owners or government.”

As one Internews-trained journalist put it, “I am the voice for the community.”`
Here's wishing them all the best of luck.

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