Local radio stations in the Central African Republic

In the war-torn Central African Republic, radio broadcasts can be of life-or-death importance. People fleeing rebel troops hear where they should head from the radio – which way is safe? But radio can also help resolve conflicts by offering new scope for discussion.

Free Press Unlimited supports efforts to restore radio stations that have been burnt to the ground or fallen in disrepair during the recent resurgence of violence in the Central African Republic. We work to train local reporters and help journalists who are threatened or physically attacked via our emergency assistance fund Reporters Respond. Journalists like Elisabeth Blanche Olofio.

Talking and listening via the radio

“My mother is illiterate. The radio is her sole source of information.” Reading a newspaper is out of the question for someone like the mother of Jean Ignace Manengou, Director of the Association of Central African Community Radio Stations (ARC). Indeed, independent local radio stations play a crucial role in the public life of Manengou’s home country. Particularly after the armed conflict between Muslim and Christian militias flared up again in March 2013. Today, the violence has left thousands dead, and a quarter of the country’s population was forced to flee their homes.

The radio stations want to give everyone the opportunity to share their perspective. A sizeable share of the programmes’ estimated 1 million listeners contribute to the discussions. The radio stations ensure that everyone in the community has access to information and updates and is able to share his or her views. It is important that people continue to talk to each other and listen to each other’s arguments – particularly in a war-torn country like the Central African Republic. “Communities often ask us: “Help us set up a radio station!” says Manengou. “People are becoming more and more aware that to stay safe and keep developing yourself, you need information.”

A new lease on life for eleven community radio stations

In 2016, Free Press Unlimited worked together with ARC to breathe new life into eleven local radio stations that had been looted and destroyed. “In many cases, the stations lack the necessary resources, technical know-how and journalism expertise,” according to Manengou. Which is why we provided the local teams with new equipment, including mixing desks, microphones, computers and transmitter masts. ARC’s trainers school local journalists in interviewing techniques, teach them the fundamental rules of journalism and how to produce an effective radio programme. And we have taught the management teams of the radio stations how to maintain and improve their self-sufficiency – including in financial terms. Our aim is to enable them to continue operating as independent organisations – without the intervention of government bodies or other parties.

In the near future, we will also be training journalists to remain safe in the physical and digital worlds, as well as offering them psycho-social support. Many journalists in the Central African Republic are heavily affected by the violence in their country. It is important that they remain able to provide unbiased information to their audience: so that they can help the people of their country to come together and move towards a brighter and more peaceful future.

Partner since: 2014
Donors: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union
Contribution: € 768,000

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