Bridging political, religious, linguistic, social and cultural divisions in a country recovering from civil war – the United Nations’ local radio station in Sudan is making a significant contribution to this complex task.
When Miraya FM went on air for the first time in 2006, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was only one year old. Tasked with ensuring peace and stability in the country, the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) was seeking ways to assist the parties of the agreement in promoting understanding of the peace process.
The radio has a key role to play in this context: through providing non-partisan information on political, social and economic issues, it actively promotes freedom of speech while encouraging dialogue within civil society. Broadcasting in Arabic and English 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, the radio aims to provide ‘quality, impartial, independent news and information’, as stated on the website.
Its popularity shows that there is an audience for this type of programme. Miraya FM has become the most well-known radio station in its broadcasting area. With an illiteracy rate of around 50%, radio broadcasts play a crucial role in reaching out to all segments of the population. The radio has proven effective in critical situations: when tensions arose in Juba, the regional capital of Southern Sudan, following rumours that the leader of a former Nuer-dominated militia had died, the radio defused the situation through broadcasting denials from his allies and an interview with the leader himself.
The radio is currently employing over 100 national staff members selected following a multi-ethnic approach: the team includes journalists of different ethnic groups and religious beliefs. Training is provided in-house.
The radio is operated by the United Nations Mission in Sudan in partnership with the Swiss non-governmental organisation Fondation Hirondelle, The European Commission provided a total financial contribution of €810 000 for the 2007-2008 period.
The EU’s involvement in the protection of human rights in Sudan is carried out in the framework of the partnership with the African Union for democratic governance and human rights in Africa. The promotion of basic freedoms such as freedom of expression and association are a central element of this partnership. A number of initiatives including the support for the African Peer Review Mechanism, electoral observation and joint events have already been carried out successfully.