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Radio broadcasters challenge government repression in Syria and elsewhere

Rozana RadioWhile it can be a strong force for information freedom, events in the Middle East over the last four years have also demonstrated how easily a repressive regime can shut down the internet inside its borders and choke off news that the government wishes to suppress. When this happens radio can be ready to step in and transmit information from the outside world.

The Verge reports on Radio Rozana, a new Paris-based radio station that broadcasts into war-torn Syria via satellite, which is a dominant broadcast medium in the Middle East, and internet. Founded by Syrian journlists in exile and funded by the French government, Radio Netherlands and NGOs like Reporters Sans Frontieres, the station also plans FM and shortwave broadcasts from bordering countries.

Radio Rozana’s program editor Lina Chawaf told Reuters that, “The priority is to hear the voice of Syrians inside Syria. They are suffering and being killed every day. We want to support them.”

While radio transmissions can be jammed by a government intent on blocking its signal, if the station is otherwise unlicensed by that government it can change its frequency and location with more agility than an established international broadcaster like the BBC.

Shortwave radio has been an effective tool for bringing outside news and information into Zimbabwe, such that earlier this year the Mugabe government banned the use of shortwave radios. Non-government media voices have become particularly vital in that country in the run up to national elections scheduled for later this month.

At the end of June a Zimbabwe member of parliament questioned Co-Home Affairs Minister Theresa Makone about the policy of confiscating solar-powered shortwave radios. Legislator Simon Hove said, “People have a right to know what is happening around them and beyond. Besides radios do not tune themselves, individuals navigate through several stations before they select a particular station to listen to.”

Markone defended the confiscations, saying, “The radios are not the problem, but the peddling of hate speech, and the police will also confiscate illegally imported radios. The threat is found when citizens are being set against each other.”

Below is a short video about Radio Rozana from Canal France International Media Cooperation:

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