In July 2006, Mohamed Abdalla Ibrahim Hassan, then president of the student union at Sudan International University in Darfur, received an inquiry from the media.
A reporter asked him about his classmates who were killed and injured during recent militia attacks. Hassan knew about the rampage by the Minni Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army in the Korma region. Seventy-two were killed and 103 injured during the attacks northwest of El-Fashir, the capital of North Darfur.
Hassan also knew that talking to the press was risky. He was right. His comments made him the next target of the security police.
“This is why I decided to leave Sudan,” says Hassan.
Even though he moved away, Hassan remained committed to peace in Darfur and to a free press. He relocated to Nairobi, Kenya, and in August 2010 joined EDC’s Darfur News and Information Service (DNIS). Hassan began by writing scripts for Al-Dawahi, a radio drama program, and later became a studio technician. Hassan and the editorial team at DNIS exchange news tips with their colleagues at EDC’s Sudan Radio Service (SRS), which broadcasts from southern Sudan and Nairobi.
Funded by the U.S. Department of State, DNIS delivers news, information, and educational programs to many of the 2.5 million internally displaced people and refugees from Darfur. The shortwave broadcast operation aims to promote constructive dialogue and to reduce tensions in this western region of Sudan, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed as a result of fighting between the Sudanese army and anti-government groups. DNIS also trains and educates budding radio journalists, all originally from Darfur. The team of professional Darfuri broadcast journalists now produces up to six hours of news and information content each week.
“When we first start training the journalists, they have very emotional reactions to covering Darfur,” says Salih Mo’Hamed, DNIS’s news coordinator. “After a time, they learn how to write balanced and fair news stories that inform our listeners.”
Listeners consider DNIS Darfur’s most trustworthy source of news, according to a recent market survey. Results also showed that in 2011, 81 percent of listeners had heard of SRS and DNIS, compared to only 2 percent of listeners who knew of the radio station in 2009.
“Listeners in Darfur trust the Darfurian voices they hear on air,” says Mo’Hamed. “They enjoy knowing where the journalists are from and which tribe or family they belong to.”
And some of these listeners may become sources for the stories by Mo’Hamed’s colleague Mohamed Arkou Adiebou Ali and the rest of the team of DNIS journalists.
“My job at DNIS is to give a voice to the voiceless in Darfur. DNIS empowers the Darfur community by educating them on what their own human rights and fundamental freedoms are,” says Mohamed Arkou. “My day starts with correspondence with a team of dedicated civil society members on the ground. That includes everyone from local administrators to nongovernmental workers. I communicate with them through the telephones, the Internet, and short message services.”
Security measures prevent DNIS from sending reporters to Darfur, for now. However, recently two DNIS journalists visited Sudanese refugees in camps in Chad and produced a vivid and compelling series about life there.
“These camps are home to the thousands of people who have had to flee across the border to escape fighting between the Sudanese army and anti-government groups,” says EDC’s Charles Haskins, DNIS programming advisor. “Our reporters interviewed camp officials and workers from nongovernmental organizations, while others collected political background on the conflict in Darfur from people who were firsthand witnesses to the fighting.”
People like Hassan and Mohamed Arkou, who continue to hold out hope for resolution, despite the ongoing violence. “My hope is that Darfur can become an independent, peaceful country,” says Hassan.
“We can only work toward justice, reconciliation, and security,” added Mohamed Arkou.
Originally published on April 29, 2011