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'Strengthen local stations to compete with Radio Dabanga': Darfur governors

March 2 - 2016 ZALINGEI
A WFP truck driver listens to the radio after waking up in the morning at an Unamid base in North Darfur (Albert Gonzalez Farran/Unamid)
A WFP truck driver listens to the radio after waking up in the morning at an Unamid base in North Darfur (Albert Gonzalez Farran/Unamid)

In a Darfur media coordination meeting in Zalingei, capital of Central Darfur on 22 February, the attendants discussed the 'problem of Radio Dabanga's popularity'.

The meeting, attended by the federal Minister of Information and the five Darfur governors, concluded with recommending “improved coordination between the national radio and the local radio stations and the development of programmes in local languages in order to address Radio Dabanga's control of the media space in the country”.

A government official told Radio Dabanga that the participants criticised the federal government for failing to provide the Darfur radio stations “with modern technology and human resources”.

The Governor of Central Darfur, Jaafar Abdelhakam, said that the poorly equipped local radio stations will never be able to compete with Radio Dabanga.

According to Adam El Faki, Governor of South Darfur, the Dabanga broadcasts have affected the registration process of the Darfur administrative referendum to a large extent, but he did not explain how. He only pointed to the weak coverage of the Darfur referendum by the government broadcasting stations.

El Faki attributed the popularity of Radio Dabanga to the “shortcomings of the Sudanese and local radio stations with regard to artistic techniques”. He said that the radio “now covers large areas [in the country]. Any house in Sudan is listening to Dabanga”.

Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman also stressed the need to provide the necessary support to local radio stations and training of its staff.

The source said that the meeting recommended the need to strengthen the local radio stations and provide targeted programmes in local languages to compete with Radio Dabanga that broadcasts its news bulletins and programmes in Sudanese colloquial Arabic and five Darfuri languages “to attract listeners in the entire country”.

Referendum

Last October, President Omar Al Bashir announced that the Darfur referendum, stipulated in the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, will take place in April 2016. The people currently living in Darfur will be able to define the permanent administrative status of the region between 11-13 April, by opting for the current status of five states or for a return of Darfur as one large state or province.

The registration for the Darfur referendum began on 8 February and will end on 20 March. About 1,400 registration and polling centres have been established in all 63 Darfur localities.

Darfuris in the camps for the displaced, Sudanese opposition parties, and civil society activists have expressed their grave concerns about holding an administrative referendum while the situation in the conflict-torn region is far from secure, and hundreds of thousands of people are surviving in camps. Allied opposition parties have announced plans to stage an anti-referendum campaign, and Darfur displaced have staged demonstrations in protest against the rampant insecurity and the referendum.

Complaints

Radio Dabanga was established in Khartoum in 2008 with the aim to provide the people of Darfur with the latest news about their region. In early 2014, Dabanga Sudan extended broadcasting its radio news and discussion programmes through a satellite TV channel supported by news slides. The station, now based in Amsterdam, broadcasts in short wave to Sudan and neighbouring countries. Satellite broadcasts are confined to the larger cities.

The Sudanese authorities have attempted to silence Radio Dabanga more than once. In late 2014, federal MPs stressed the need to disrupt the station’s “hostile activities” or completely stop them. They accused the Sudanese media of being “almost non-existent”, and demanded from the Minister of Information to establish radio stations, TV channels, newspapers, and a Sudanese satellite channel to counter Dabanga.

An official complaint from the Ministry of Information resulted in the removal of the Dabanga Sudan satellite channel from Arabsat Broadcast Services in May last year.

Members of Parliament again criticised the Ministry of Information in December, for failing to provide radio coverage in the states of Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan, “leaving the field to Radio Dabanga”.

On 7 February, Sudanese government officials conveyed Khartoum’s discontent about Radio Dabanga to the Dutch embassy. “The Dutch government said that they do not bless the matter, but that their laws allow the freedom of expression,” the director of Bilateral Relations at the Ministry, Dafalla El Haj told reporters on Khartoum after the meeting. A number of daily newspapers in Khartoum alleged that the Dutch delegation “showed regrets that it is unable to shut down the independent radio station”, but this was vehemently denied by the Dutch Ambassador to Sudan, Susan Blankhart.


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