Reliable coverage of news in Darfur

You may not hear a lot about it, but in Sudan, the army has been engaged in a devastating struggle with rebel forces in Darfur since 2003. And as always, most of the victims of the conflict are civilians: the death toll has presently risen to some 300,000. Over 2.5 million people have fled their villages. Their sole source of reliable information is Radio Dabanga, which is supported by Free Press Unlimited. Radio Dabanga broadcasts from Amsterdam.

Radio Dabanga plays a crucial role in the Darfuris’ efforts to survive. The station tells them where there is fighting going on, and which way they can flee. And for the refugees in the camps outside of Darfur, Dabanga is a source of hope. “Radio Dabanga helps break taboos, gives victims a voice and brings the actual facts to light,” says Editor Sadig Musa. But the international media and aid organisations also depend on the station for news about the latest developments in the region. “People tell us who are destroying the villages, who are killing ordinary civilians, who are entering the camps for pillage and who are using rape as a weapon.”

Network of reporters

There is no way Radio Dabanga could broadcast from Sudan: the station would be censored or shut down altogether. So how does it get its information? An extensive network of reporters and citizen journalists work every day to collect the latest news, eyewitness reports and background information. They report from Darfur itself and from neighbouring country Chad, where many of the Darfuri refugee camps can be found. Every day, after the provided information has been thoroughly verified, the Sudanese editorial team in Amsterdam compiles a new 2.5-hour programme in Arabic and five local languages. This is broadcast in Sudan via short-wave radio and satellite television. Over 2 million people listen to Radio Dabanga every day. And over 1.5 people in the Sudanese capital watch Dabanga TV, which offers a mix of teletext news and discussion programmes.

Listeners send in news via app

In early 2016, violence flared up again in Darfur – another reason for Radio Dabanga to expand its range of news services. In the course of one year, Dabanga’s new social media editor was able to triple the number of Facebook fans, to a total of 130,000. But Radio Dabanga’s biggest feat in 2016 would have to be its sourcing of news via WhatsApp. Every day, some 4,000 messages are sent to the station’s editors by no fewer than 250 different people. To filter these valuable updates, Radio Dabanga plans to work with a so-called chatbot. Online, this automated chat partner can hold a more or less natural ‘conversation’ with the website’s visitors.

Live TV on its way

Dabanga’s audience has also called on the station to produce a live television programme. In 2016, the editorial team laid the groundwork for this expansion. This is how this independent radio station founded in 2008 by a small group of Sudanese journalists has grown to become a powerful information platform for the people of Darfur. By offering them reliable news and background information, Radio Dabanga can help its audience make well-considered decisions – both when it comes to their own lives and to the development of their war-torn region.

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